In June 2019, Governor Greg Abbott signed a bill into law that criminalizes the sending of unsolicited pictures of “intimate parts” to others. The bill covers messages sent via texting, online dating applications, or through messaging platforms on social media.
A Texas legislator proposed the bill after the founder of the Austin-based dating app, Bumble, approached him about the lewd pictures that some users were sending through the app. Bumble is a women-focused app that permits only women to message men first, not the other way around. Bumble already bans shirtless selfies, nudity, drugs, and guns in the pictures that users can post online. While Bumble has banned and blocked any users reported to send unsolicited pictures of this sort, the problem has continued to increase. Bumble says ongoing problems with aggressive and unsolicited online communications through its app.
The new offense is a Class C misdemeanor, whose maximum sentence is a $500 fine. While law enforcement authorities may have difficulty enforcing the law, supporters are hoping that the law will make individuals think twice before sending unsolicited pictures. Now, if the recipient chooses, he or she could report the sender of the image to the police.
However, tracking pictures of genitalia sent from an anonymous email or Twitter account could be next to impossible. Furthermore, municipal courts and justice of the peace courts that typically prosecute Class C misdemeanors, like some traffic citations, are unlikely to have the resources. Prosecutors also are unlikely to prioritize these cases.
Defenses that individuals might raise are claims that someone else used their phone to send the picture, or that they or someone else sent it by accident. Determining whether someone negligently, accidentally, or recklessly sent a picture for their phone would be challenging, at best.
When you are facing any criminal charges in the state of Texas, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney to represent your interests from the very beginning of your case. Contact Peek & Toland at (512) 474-4445 today and set up an appointment to speak with our legal team.