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Obscenity

Obscenity is such indecency calculated to promote violation of the law or corruption of morals.  Items that have been held to be offensive to public morals have been considered obscene.  Obscenity includes pornography, and can also include nude dancing, sexually oriented commercial telephone messages, and scatological comedic routines.  Obscenity is not protected by the first amendment right to free speech and therefore is punishable at law.

A person is guilty of obscenity when, knowing the content and character of the material, the person disseminates, or possesses the intent to disseminate, any obscene material. 

Material is likely to be considered obscene if the following test is satisfied: (1) whether ‘the average person, applying contemporary community standards’ would find that the work, ‘taken as a whole,’ appeals to ‘prurient interest’ (2) whether the work depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by the applicable state law, and (3) whether the work, ‘taken as a whole,’ lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.  In the first test, an appeal to ‘prurient interest’ is described as an appeal to a morbid, degrading, and unhealthy interest in sex.  In the second test, the purpose is to measure the work’s offensive nature against the community standards.  The third test looks at the predominant effect of the work, and takes the whole work rather than sub-parts of it into consideration in determining its lack of value. It should be noted that courts have held that an item may have serious value in one of the areas (artistic, literary, political or scientific), even if it is sexually explicit.

With regards to obscenity, the term “disseminate” is a broad term, which can be used to mean sale, distribution, promotion, and exhibition.  The intent to disseminate is also a crucial element of the crime of obscenity, and private possession of obscene matter is not regulated.

A first time offense of obscenity is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine, or no more than one year in prison.  A second time offense to obscenity is a felony.  Obscenity to minors, even for the first time, is a felony.  To find a criminal defense lawyer who is qualified to represent you against a charge of obscenity, please visit www.crimelawyers.org


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