Posting Pictures That Cause “Emotional Distress” is Now Harassment

Have you ever been tempted to post a particularly unflattering picture of your ex on Facebook?  How about tweeting some of the lingerie pictures you promised never to show anybody?  Well, after July 1st, 2011, you might find yourself in jail if you succumb to such temptation.

Harassment changes in Tennessee

Until recently, T.C.A. 39-17-308 stated that a person could be found guilty of harassment if he “communicates with another person” it a way that “would frighten, intimidate or cause emotional distress”.  The inference being that a person isn’t guilty of harassment unless he talks directly with the victim by phone, text message, email, etc.

Tennessee has revised the “harassment” statute to say that a person commits the offense of harassment if he “communicates with another person or transmits or displays an image in a manner in which there is a reasonable expectation that the image will be viewed by the victim“.  This means that you no longer have to communicate directly with your ex to be guilty of harassment.  Now, you could be found guilty if you no more than post to your Facebook page any kind of statement, status update, photograph, video, sound, drawing, or just about anything else that you should know would cause your spouse “emotional distress”.

In previous posts I’ve warned you about how the opposing divorce lawyer will use your social media page, and I’ve suggested that people getting a divorce should keep a “low profile” online.   Now, I will be advising my clients to remove any pictures they may have posted that include their spouse, or that their spouse might possibly find offensive.  In addition, I would tell you to refrain from making any sort of comment online in reference to your spouse or ex.

What you need to know

I can appreciate what the Tennessee legislature is trying to accomplish.  I’ve been involved in cases where one party posted something on Twitter or Facebook that served no purpose other than to mock their spouse.  Even though the person didn’t send it directly to their spouse, they were fully aware that it was likely the spouse would find it.  However, the problem with this law is it’s so vague it could apply to just about anything, and this vagueness probably makes the law unconstitutional.

If you are involved in a case where harassment might be an issue, contact me to find out how I can help you with your situation.