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F.S. 847.012, F.S. 847.013, F.S. 847.0133 - Protecting Minors From Harmful or Obscene Materials

In the age of information, protecting minors from harmful or obscene materials may seem a futile exercise. After all, explicit messaging is everywhere: The music they listen to, the movies they watch and the social media platforms with which they engage. 

Nonetheless, there are several Florida statutes that are aimed at protecting those under 18 from exposure to obscene or harmful materials. 

Among these: 

  • F.S. 847.012 - Harmful materials; sale or distribution to minors or using minors in production prohibited. This is a third-degree felony, punishable by up to 5 years in prison.
  • F.S. 847.013 - Exposing minors to harmful motion pictures, exhibitions, shows, presentations or representations. This is a first-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail. 
  • F.S. 847.0133 - Protection of minors; prohibition of certain acts in connection with obscenity. This is a third-degree felony, punishable by up to 5 years in prison. 

Defendants in these cases are often caught off-guard – either because they did not know their conduct was unlawful or they did not realize the person with whom they were sharing certain materials was actually underage. 

That said, you can expect the state to treat such charges seriously. In fact, they’re required to do so by law. Legislators made it a point within these statutes to stipulate, “Sheriffs and state attorneys shall vigorously enforce this section within their respective jurisdictions.” 

As longtime, highly-rated Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyers, we know that even when it seems the evidence is stacked against you, there are almost always effective defense arguments that can be made on your behalf. Our primary goal will always be to get the charges dropped (or never filed in the first place, if we can act early enough in a case). But even when that is impossible or unlikely, there are several ways we can minimize the fallout. These are not the kind of charges you want to try to talk your way out of. Let your attorney do the talking for you. 

F.S. 847.012 - Harmful Materials; Sale or Distribution to Minors or Using Minors

This Florida statute makes it illegal to knowingly sell, rent, or loan to a minor any materials (picture, photo, drawing, movie, sculpture, book, magazine, pamphlet, audio recording, etc.) that are harmful to a minor AND are of a person or portion of a person depicting nudity, sexual conduct, sexual excitement, sexual battery, bestiality, or sadomasochistic abuse OR that contain explicit and detailed verbal descriptions/narrative accounts of sexual excitement or sexual conduct. 

“Knowingly” in this case means having the general knowledge of, a reason to know, or grounds that warrant further inspection. The fact that a person is ignorant of the minor’s age – even if the minor lied about their age or you genuinely believed them to be over 18 – cannot be raised as a defense in these cases. 

The law puts the onus on adults to verify the child’s age, given the character and content of the material they’re sharing. 

This is a third-degree felony, and every transaction or act can be considered a separate offense – and is punishable as such. 

F.S. 847.013 – Exposing Minors to Harmful Motion Pictures, Exhibitions, Shows, Presentations, or Representations

This Florida criminal statute makes it illegal to knowingly for money sell or rent to minors any videos that depict nudity, sexual conduct, sexual battery or similar content that is harmful to minors. It’s also unlawful to knowingly sell minors admission tickets or passes to shows or exhibitions that display that kind of material. 

However, this does not apply if the minor is accompanied by a parent. 

That said, neither the minor nor anyone with them is allowed to misrepresent the minor’s age in order to procure admission or rental materials. 

Violating this provision is a first-degree misdemeanor. 

F.S. 847.0133 – Protection of Minors; Prohibition of Certain Acts in Connection With Obscenity

No one is allowed to knowingly sell, rent, loan, give away, distribute, transmit or show any obscene material to a minor (someone under 18).

“Materials” can be pretty much anything: Book, magazine, newspaper, comic, written story, card, picture, photo, video recording, tape, audio file, etc.  

“Obscene” in this case is defined in an earlier Florida criminal statute, F.S. 847.001. It’s understood as material that appeals to prurient/sexual interests (when taken as a whole and judged by modern community standards). It depicts or describes sexual conduct in a way that is “patently offensive.” When viewed as a whole, it does not have any redeeming value in the realms of literature, art, politics, or science. 

It is critically important that we protect free speech in this country, and sometimes the line between that which is protected and that which is obscene and therefore unprotected is blurry. If it can be argued that the material is not intended to appeal to sexual interests, is not patently offensive, or has some redeeming value to society, this can be used as an effective defense in these cases. 

Given that this is a third-degree felony, it is very important that anyone facing such charges seek legal counsel from an experienced criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. 
If you have been arrested for violating Florida’s laws against distribution of harmful materials to minors, contact the Fort Lauderdale Criminal Defense Lawyers at The Ansara Law Firm by calling (954) 761-4011.

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