Sending nude photos without consent could land you on N.H. sex offender registry

Monitor staff
Friday, January 12, 2018

A bill proposing to expand the sex offender registry to include those convicted of disseminating private sexual images without the subject’s consent faced opposition at its first public hearing Thursday.

House Bill 1426 would require a first-time offender to register for 10 years on the nonpublic registry used only by law enforcement, as long as the victim was not under the age of 18. Anyone convicted of sharing a sexually explicit image of a child or of committing a second offense within a five-year period must register on the public list for life.

Of the approximately 3,000 people on New Hampshire’s sex offender registry, about 13 percent are on the non-public list, state police Sgt. Rebecca Eder-Linell said during Thursday’s public hearing before the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee.

While members of the law enforcement community are strongly backing the bill out of concern for public safety, representatives from the New Hampshire Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NHACDL) and the American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire said HB 1426 should not move forward.

Jeanne Hruska, policy director for the ACLU, said the sex offender registry is intended to advance public safety by ensuring that the community is aware of serial predators – people who have committed sex crimes in the past and are most likely to do so again.

“We have yet to see such evidence that persons convicted of non-consensual dissemination of private sexual images are serial crime risks,” she said.

The ACLU is not opposed to registries, but believes they should be reserved as punishment in very specific cases, including when there is likelihood of recidivism and the crime is sexual in nature.

NHACDL’s Executive Director Katherine Cooper echoed Hruska’s concerns that the bill would expand the sex offender registry too broadly and unnecessarily.

“There are many ways that you could commit the underlying crime that have nothing to do with sex,” Cooper said. “Many times in this statute we are calling it ‘revenge porn.’ It can have absolutely nothing to do with revenge; it can have absolutely nothing to do with porn.”

Typically, people think of a jilted ex-lover sending out nude images of a past partner without his or her consent, but that’s not always the case, Cooper said. For example, she said, a girl mad at her best friend could dig up a sexually explicit image, which is shared on a piece of paper and may never hit the internet.

In 2016, New Hampshire outlawed the dissemination of private sexual images without the subject’s consent, in cases of intimidation, harassment or threatening. While the legislation aimed to stop this behavior among ex-partners, it also banned the sharing of images collected without a subject’s consent, through a hidden camera in a shower or a bedroom.

Sgt. Eder-Linell said Thursday that both instances are damaging to victims, who can suffer lifelong consequences, especially when these images are posted online.

“The elements of this offense are just as severe as any other on our sex offender registry,” she told the House committee. “We feel that this offense should be treated the same.”

Gov. Chris Sununu has backed the bill, which he referenced in his 2018 legislative agenda shared Tuesday with the public.

(Alyssa Dandrea can be reached at 369-3319, adandrea@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @_ADandrea.)