Under New Jersey law, anyone who posts nude or sexual images of another without that person’s consent commits a crime. New Jersey was the first state in the U.S. to make such activity a crime when it passed New Jersey statute section 2C:14-9 in 2004. Since then, 15 other states have passed similar laws, 13 of those in just the last 18 months. Under New Jersey law, a conviction for invasion of privacy under 2C:14-9 is a third degree felony that can result in up to five years in jail.

There is not much in the way of federal criminal law on revenge porn. However, various laws can apply if federal authorities wish to prosecute or arrest an individual for posting sexual images online without consent. For example, the Federal Trade Commission recently barred a man from posting nude images to his website. On January 29, 2015, the FTC issued a press release stating the accused man had agreed to permanently delete all photos he had obtained and posted without consent. The FTC can issue an administrative complaint against individuals it believes to be in violation of federal law. A violation of an FTC consent order can result in a $16,000 fine.

Another example occurred last year, when the FBI arrested a man for paying someone to hack into computers to steal private videos containing sexual images. The FBI arrested the man for violation of the Federal Trade Commission Act. These are just two examples of the authority federal agencies have to prosecute: As revenge porn becomes a larger concern in coming years, it is likely that federal involvement in arresting and prosecuting alleged perpetrators will increase.

Jets linebacker charged under New Jersey law

At the state level, authorities have prosecuted instances of revenge porn for years. New York Jets’ linebacker Jermaine Cunningham, for example, was arrested on Dec. 29, 2014 on charges he violated New Jersey law when he posted explicit photos of a female friend. He pled not guilty to the charges on January 7. Authorities have not released how Cunningham shared the images.

While Cunningham is a recent example of the focus New Jersey law enforcement on cracking down on revenge porn, he is certainly not the only person to be accused of posting nude images online without consent. According to a 2013 survey by Internet security firm McAfee, 10 percent of ex-partners have threatened to post sexually explicit photos online. Of those that made threats, over half actually posted such images.

Serious charges require experienced defense

The Internet can be an easy place to make mistakes. A bad decision made in anger can have lasting consequences. In addition, security breaches can mean a computer is vulnerable to hackers and acquaintances who may obtain access to private files – files which the accused may have had no intention of sharing. Teens may become the subject of criminal prosecution after an incident involving sexting, even if they did not intend images to be posted online.

New Jersey residents charged under the state’s invasion of privacy law or federal white collar crimes should obtain the help of a skilled criminal defense attorney to protect their rights and understand their legal options in the face of serious and devastating consequences.