Dissemination of Obscene Material

Both Florida and federal law prohibit the dissemination of obscene material.

Of course, not all obscene matter is sexually-oriented, but most of the acts prosecuted under these laws are.

Fort Lauderdale sex crimes defense lawyers at The Ansara Law Firm recognize the severity of these charges, and are committed to building a strong defense in your case.

Florida’s obscenity laws, codified in F.S. 847, cover offenses that relate to pornography and improper contact or relations with minors that don’t involve physical touching.

It’s essential to point out that a defendant’s ignorance of a minor’s age – even if the youth lied about it – isn’t a valid defense. Neither is it going to matter if a defendant can prove the minor consented to any of the underlying acts. Even if a suspect truly believed the alleged victim was at least 18, it’s not going to help his case.

Your attorney has to be someone who is experienced in Florida obscenity law and who has the resources and skill necessary to build an effective defense.

What is Obscenity?

Florida law defines obscenity as material that:

  • An average person, using contemporary community standards, would find as a whole appeals to the prurient interest;
  • Depicts or describes sexual conduct in a way that is patently offensive;
  • Taken as a whole, doesn’t have any serious scientific, artistic, political or literary value.

The law specifically asserts that a mother breastfeeding her baby is not – under any circumstance – to be considered “obscene.”

Commonly Charged Obscenity Laws

Perhaps the obscenity law people most recognize is F.S. 847.0135, which encompasses computer pornography, prohibited computer usage and traveling to meet a minor. If you have ever watched the “To Catch a Predator” series, this was the statute under which officials were framing their stings. These involved men driving to meet an underage girl with whom they had connected on the internet. Once they arrived, however, they learn the girl doesn’t exist and they’ve been exchanging messages with an undercover police officer.

This law involves knowingly:

  • Compiling, transmitting, printing, publishing, buying, selling, receiving, exchanging or disseminating any notice or advertisement of a minor for purposes of soliciting sexual conduct with a minor or the visual depiction of such conduct. This is a third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison.
  • Knowingly using internet service to seduce, solicit, lure or entice a child or person believed to be a child to engage in unlawful sexual conduct. This is also a third-degree felony.
  • Traveling to meet a minor in the state for purposes of engaging in unlawful sexual conduct after using the computer to seduce, solicit, lure or entice the child. This is a second-degree felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
  • Transmitting via internet the intentional masturbation, lewd or lascivious exposure of genitals or any other sexual act that doesn’t involve actual physical or sexual contact to a person under 16. This is characterized as lewd or lascivious exhibition. The classification depends on the age of the offender. For someone under 18, it’s a third-degree felony. For someone over 18, it’s a second-degree felony.

The statute specifically points out that involvement of undercover officers isn’t a valid defense. So even if no lewd or lascivious images were transmitted to law enforcement and not actual underage people, that in itself is not a defense if prosecutors can show defendant believed the recipient was a minor and intentionally sent the images anyway.

Other common violations of obscenity law are codified in:

  • F.S. 847.0137 – Any person who knows or reasonably should have known he or she was transmitting child pornography commits a third-degree felony.
  • F.S. 847.0138 – Any person who knows or believed he or she was electronically transmitting an image, information or data that is harmful to minors (reproduction, imitation, characterization, description, exhibition, presentation or representation of nudity, sexual conduct or sexual excitement) to a specific individual known by defendant commits a third-degree felony.
  • F.S. 847.012 – Any person who knowingly sells, rents or loans to a minor any picture, photo, drawing, sculpture, film, video, book or similar visual representation depicting nudity or sexual conduct that is harmful to minors commits a third-degree felony.

Minors too can be prosecuted under obscenity laws, most notably for “sexting.”

Per F.S. 847.0141, a minor can be cited with a non-criminal violation for using a computer or other electronic device to transmit or distribute to another minor any photo or video of any person depicting nudity that is deemed “harmful to minors.” The citation results in a juvenile court appearance, a $60 fine, 8 hours of community service work and participation in a cyber-safety program. Allowing minors to receive a civil citation – rather than be criminally prosecuted – was a 2015 legislative update to the law. However, if the minor fails to comply or if the court finds the juvenile has in fact committed a crime, he she could be charged with either a first-degree misdemeanor (up to 1 year in jail) or possibly even a third-degree felony (up to 5 years in prison).

If you have been arrested for violation of Florida’s obscenity laws, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney right away.

Contact the experienced Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyers at The Ansara Law Firm by calling (954) 761-4011 or toll-free at (877)-ARREST-0 (277-3780).