November 27, 2014 / 3:05 AM / 5 years ago

U.S. judge puts Arizona's 'revenge porn' bill on hold

PHOENIX (Reuters) - A U.S. judge on Wednesday put on hold enforcement of Arizona’s “revenge porn” law that made it a felony to post online nude images of others without their consent, after a rights group said the measure was too broad and state attorneys agreed it should be revisited.

    U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton’s order came at the request of the state attorney general’s office and the American Civil Liberties Union, which is representing booksellers, newspapers and others in a federal lawsuit against the law.

    The judge called for enforcement of the law and further legal proceedings to be put on hold pending possible changes to the legislation by the Republican-controlled state Legislature when it reconvenes in January. 

“We hope that the legislature will embrace this opportunity to narrow the law so it reaches truly bad actors without infringing on protected First Amendment rights,” Dan Pochoda, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona, said in a statement.

    A spokeswoman for the state Attorney General’s Office could not immediately be reached for comment.

    Backers said the law, which was signed by Governor Jan Brewer in April and took effect in July, was designed to crack down on attempts by people to humiliate former lovers, among others, by publishing images without the consent of a nude person or an individual engaged in sexual activities.

    The ACLU filed suit in federal court in Phoenix in September, arguing the law would criminalize speech that was protected by the U.S. Constitution.     

    Civil rights attorneys said the law would put at risk anyone who distributed or displayed a nude image, including images that were newsworthy, artistic, educational or artistic.

    Violators face a possible sentence of 18 months in prison, a penalty that could be increased to 2 1/2 years if the person shown in the images can be recognized.    

    Last year, California Governor Jerry Brown signed the first law in the country specifically targeting revenge porn. New Jersey has an older law that allows prosecution of revenge porn, but it was passed as a wide-reaching cyber-bullying statute.

Editing by Alex Dobuzinskis and Peter Cooney

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