Dissemination of Obscene Material

In the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, it is considered unlawful to distribute material that is considered to be obscene.

Applicable Massachusetts Law

There are several elements that must be established in order for a charge concerning dissemination of obscene material to be made. Prosecution must establish three particular elements.

First Requirement: Obscenity

The matter in question must be obscene in nature.

In order to be considered obscene, material must meet three particular elements:

  • The material must appeal to the prurient interest of an average citizen of the county where the offense was committed. The phrase “prurient interest” refers to either a shameful or morbid interest in nudity, sex, or excretion or an unhealthy interest about sexul matters that repugnant to prevailing moral standards.
  • The material must show or describe sexual conduct in a way that is offensive to average citizens of the county.
  • The material not possess any serious artistic, literary, political, or scientific value.

Obscene material includes print or visual media and can include books, figures, films, magazines, photographs, records, and statues. It is often easier to determine what is not obscenity.

Nudity alone is not obscenity because an element of the material must be arousing in nature.

Second Requirement: Dissemination

An individual must have disseminated the matter or possessed the matter with the intent to disseminate the material.

Third Requirement: Knowledge

An individual must understood the material in question was obscene in nature.

Potential Consequences

A charge concerning the dissemination of obscene material can result in an individual facing up to five years in prison or in a jail or house of correction for a maximum of two and one half years. Individuals can also expect to be fined up to $10,000 for a first time charge of committing this offense. Additionally individuals who are charged a second time for the offense can expect to pay up to $20,000, while individuals who are charged with a third offense will be fined a maximum of $30,000.

Available Defenses

There are fortunately some common defenses that individuals are able to raise in response to dissemination charges.

One defense is claiming that an individual’s activity is protected under the First Amendment. The First Amendment of the United States Constitution protects freedom of speech and expression. If the material in questions in any contributes to art, literature, or science then the work is likely protected.

Another potential defense is if the individual was a bona fide library, museum, or school or if the individual was acting in the course of employment by a bona fide library, museum, or school.

Similarly, individuals can raise a defense if the individual was an employee of a retail outlet that is affiliated with a library, museum, or school that serves the educational purpose of the organization.

Contact a Talented Defense Attorney

When individuals in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts are charged with the dissemination of obscene material, it is often a wise idea to retain the services of talented legal representation. From start to finish, attorney Henry Fasoldt will remain committed to your case and fight tirelessly to make sure that your case resolves in a positive manner.