Rep. Kevin Engler, R-Farmington
Rep. Kevin Engler, R-Farmington

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Rep. Kevin Engler is filing legislation that would prohibit the production of “revenge porn,” a rising trend on the Internet where scorned lovers release sexually explicit images to the public.

Engler says he was reading a news article about a woman and school teacher whose ex-boyfriend sent naked images of her to her school’s principle and school board when he decided Missouri needed a new law.

“I thought to myself, what if this happened to someone I knew in a small town, it would ruin them, and the person who sends this stuff, there is very little legal recourse,” Engler said.

The bill would make disseminating sexually explicit images without the consent of the individual a class D felony. Engler says this is because investigating electronic crimes like the sending of images requires experts and electronic analysis, an expensive process.

“If we make it a misdemeanor, prosecutors aren’t going to spend the money to take a computer to a lab and examine it with an expert to prove someone’s guilt,” Engler said. “There needs to be an incentive to investigate.”

Opponents of the bill say it will make it harder for the press to investigate sexual scandals, but Engler says he’s “totally open” to an amendment excluding public officials, which, he says, have a higher threshold for libel and defamation anyway.

“If Joe Schmo elected official is caught in a van banging his secretary and there is a police report and everything, do we really need the video or the images for that to be a scandal?” Engler said. “I don’t have a problem investigating scandals, but I have a problem with someone in the press taking pictures 1,000 yards away with a high zoom camera and catching someone in their home where they have a reasonable expectation of privacy.”

There was no opposition to the bill in committee, and Engler said based on his conversation with committee members the bill may be successfully passed by as early as next week.

“You wouldn’t believe the support from most of the committee,” Engler said. “I’m certain it’ll get out of committee, beyond that, I don’t want to make any predictions.”

Collin Reischman is the Managing Editor for The Missouri Times, and a graduate of Webster University with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism. To contact Collin, email collin@themissouritimes.com or via Twitter at @CMReischman