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Is it illegal if an ex threatens to distribute personal intimate pics that were taken during a relationship?

Beckley, WV |
Attorney answers 3


This is a tough issue, since there is an element of you having volunteered in the photos and thus not having a right of privacy. You need to speak with a local attorney to see if there is a way of getting an injunction against the release of these pictures, assuming the threat is for real. The problem is going to be a context for seeking the injunction, meaning you need to have some kind of cause of action, some kind of lawsuit, you can bring. If there is a divorce pending or past, perhaps in that case. Perhaps a claim of infliction of emotional distress. Perhaps a type of anti-harassment restraining order, which we have available here in Mass., but does not necessarily exist in WV. That's why you need to speak to a local attorney about this.

To questioners from West Virginia & New York: Although I am licensed to practice in your state, I practice on a day-to-day basis in Massachusetts. I answer questions in your state in areas of the law in which I practice, and in which I feel comfortable trying to offer you assistance based on my knowledge of specific statutes in your state and/or general principles applicable in all states. It is always best, however, to work with attorneys and court personnel in your own area to deal with specific problems and factual situations.


I must respectfully disagree with my colleague on this issue. He may very well be correct, and I may be wrong on this. But I suspect that a very clear cause of action for invasion of privacy could be had against your ex for making those photos public. Just because you consented to the photos back when you and he were a couple does not give him the unfettered right to place those photos into the public domain. If back when the photos were taken you didn't want anyone to see them but him, why in the world would you permit him to show those photos to anyone else now? Talk to a local torts/defamation/invasion of privacy practitioner to learn more about your specific circumstances and the state of WV law in this area. Good luck!

If you think my response is the best response, it would help me if you would indicate that. Also, please note that my responses to question(s) are NOT legal advice from me to you because I am NOT your lawyer, you are NOT my client, and we do NOT currently have an attorney-client relationship. Thanks!


I would agree with both of the previous responders in that you probably have some legal recourse in the state of WV. I am a West Virginia attorney and believe that you could possibly obtain an injunction/restraining order against her in the first place or to prevent further dissemination. If after the fact, you probably have several possible civil liability claims, including a civil TRO (temporary restraining order) in conjunction with claims for Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress, Invasion of Privacy, among other potential theories. WV is a pretty liberal pleading jurisdiction, so after meeting with an attorney and some further brainstorming on all possible (or the best) theories of recovery and best means to redress the wrong, I have little doubt that you could at least get her to cease and possibly recover some compensation, if a judge/jury would see fit.
William Adams

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