Furnishing Harmful or Obscene Materials to a Minor
Furnishing harmful or obscene materials to a minor constitutes a federal offense with hefty consequences. Examples of obscene materials could include pictures or videos of obscenities, such as pornography. However, an sex crime attorney can help a defendant fight their charges and work to get them reduced or dropped.
People get caught performing these acts in several situations. Sometimes, a child’s parent will find the evidence and report it to the police, and the child may describe who sent them the materials. In other cases, police officers solicit people in an undercover fashion, acting as minors. If someone sends the undercover officer something obscene, thinking they are sending it to a minor, they could get charged.
What Is Furnishing Harmful or Obscene Materials?
According to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), federal law strictly prohibits the distribution of obscene materials to minors. Anyone under the age of 16 is considered a minor. Therefore, if an adult sends someone under that age obscene materials, they could face punishment under federal law.
Other illegal actions under this law include:
- Misleading minors into viewing obscene materials. This can occur if someone creates a website with something children are interested in, such as a cartoon character. Then, they can see obscene materials once they get further into the website. Federal law prohibits such acts.
- Furnishing any type of visual representation of what looks like minors engaging in sexual activity. Even if adults pass this content to other adults, they may face punishment under federal law.
Many states also have laws against furnishing harmful or obscene materials to a minor.
For instance, according to Arizona law, any person who presents, provides, gives, sends, distributes, or makes obscene materials available to minors could get charged with a Class 4 Felony. For a Class 4 felony in Arizona, someone could face from one year to 3.75 years in prison if they get convicted.
Punishments for Furnishing Harmful or Obscene Materials to a Minor
Harsh punishments exist for furnishing these materials to a minor. As mentioned, if you received this charge, you could face a felony. Felonies carry heavy punishments, such as fines and jail time.
Certain factors could lengthen a defendant’s prison sentence or raise the fines.
These factors include:
- If someone has a criminal background
- If other aggravating factors are relevant to the charge
Again, however, the sentencing guidelines depend on your state and jurisdiction. An attorney can explain what penalties you could face in your situation and help you build a defense.
An Attorney Can Help to Reduce the Punishment
Usually, when someone gets charged with furnishing harmful or obscene materials to a minor, an attorney can provide legal assistance. In addition, hiring a criminal defense attorney can give you additional legal resources and a lawyer’s years of experience working with criminal cases.
Defenses an attorney could present in this type of case include:
- Show the police did not lawfully obtain the evidence; therefore, none of the evidence presented is valid
- Prove the defendant did not knowingly send the obscene materials to a minor
- Prove the defendant did not know the minor was under 18 at the time they sent the obscene materials
- If they sent the obscene materials through a computer, argue that the computer has multiple users, and they can’t prove the defendant sent the obscenities
- Prove the police report contains misleading facts and does not accurately depict what happened
Criminal defense attorneys understand how to build a solid defense strategy for their clients. With a legal strategy, you may not have to face a conviction for these charges. You could also face lesser fines and penalties.
Non-Legal Consequences of a Criminal Conviction
If someone gets convicted of a felony, they would have to deal with consequences outside of the legal realm. Once someone faces a conviction for this type of crime, it could stay on their record for the rest of their life. Even if someone pays their dues, serves jail time, or pays the fines, their conviction will continue to follow them in many areas of life.
Without an attorney’s knowledge of the courts and experience with criminal cases, defendants can prove more vulnerable to a conviction.
Some of the long-term consequences of a conviction could include:
- Difficulty gaining employment: Employers carefully consider who they hire to work for their company. A criminal conviction could make it more difficult to find a job. The person who received the conviction might have to register as a sex offender, making any job working around minors almost impossible. If you get a job, the conviction could also prohibit someone from getting a required license to perform their work duties.
- Difficulty getting loans: If a bank runs a background check and sees a criminal conviction, they could deny a loan to that person. This could make it very difficult when trying to purchase a home or a car or go back to school to increase their education.
- Renting a home: Many landlords do background checks on potential renters to ensure they protect their investment property. Having a criminal conviction on your record could limit the available housing options.
- Get on the sex offender registry: The defendant may need to go on the National Sex Offender Registry with this type of offense. When someone is on this registry, their address and other personal information are visible to the public. Also, people they know could find them on this registry and not want their children or themselves around them anymore.
- Limits on travel: Some countries don’t allow people with certain convictions to travel into their country. Someone with this type of conviction might not have the opportunity to go somewhere as close as Canada.
- Restricted voting: Offenders with a felony conviction could lose their voting privileges. Some states don’t allow people to vote, run for public office, or even get on a jury if they have a criminal conviction.
- Effect on child custody: Depending on the type of conviction, it could affect child custody arrangements. If a defendant receives a conviction of a crime involving a minor, they could see challenges with having their normal parenting time or visitation rights.
You should think about the long-term consequences of a criminal conviction. Therefore, anyone going through a criminal trial should consider hiring a criminal defense attorney to represent them. That can give them legal resources to avoid a criminal conviction altogether.
FAQs About Furnishing Harmful or Obscene Materials to a Minor
As the U.S. Department of Justice notes, the U.S. Supreme Court established criteria for judges and juries indicating what they should consider when determining if materials are obscene.
The criteria include:
- The average person finds that the matter appeals to prurient interests. These include erotic, abnormal, unhealthy, degrading, lascivious, shameful, or morbid materials.
- The average person finds the material to depict sexual conduct offensively. This could include sexual acts, masturbation, excretory functions, or the exhibition of the genitals.
- The content has obscenities and also does not have any literacy, artistic, scientific, or political value.
If the materials fall within the realm of these three test items, a judge or jury could find them obscene.
The law criminalizes other acts beyond sending pictures and videos of obscene material.
The following also constitutes obscenity if someone knowingly sent it to a minor:
- A description of a sexual act
- A description of excretory functions or discusses masturbation and lewd descriptions of genitals
If you send any materials to a minor and the materials meet these criteria, you could face a felony.
How Severe Is a Class 4 Felony?
A Class 4 felony can land someone with prison time. While not as severe as Class 1-3 felonies, people charged with Class 1 felonies typically commit a violent crime, such as murder.
A Class 4 felony constitutes the least severe felony and is only one step away from the most severe misdemeanor. Other examples of Class 4 felonies could include theft of a motor vehicle or aggravated assault.
While a Class 4 felony constitutes the lesser of other felony categories, it still carries serious consequences. Someone with this type of felony could face large fines and jail time. This conviction could also stay on their record for the rest of their life. In this case, getting a job or a loan could prove challenging.
Which Modes of Transfer Are Considered Illegal?
Regardless of whether someone sends obscenities over the internet or if they mail them to a minor’s house, federal law views it as a crime.
The following crimes fall under furnishing harmful or obscene materials to a minor:
- Mailing either obscene material or something that could incite crime to a minor.
- Producing obscene material and selling it to minors.
- Creating content or imagery that depicts the sexual abuse of a child.
You commit an illegal act if you transfer such materials to a minor in the United States.
Can Someone Get Removed From the Sex Offender Registry?
After getting convicted of a crime, you can face challenges in getting off the National Sex Offender Registry. The registry exists for a reason: To inform the public of registered sex offenders. People with children and any others in a neighborhood have a right to know if offenders live near them. This can allow them to better protect their children and themselves.
However, once someone gets on the National Sex Offender Registry, it can prove difficult to get off. The exact legal steps depend on your state’s laws. For instance, Arizona law says you must file a petition to terminate sex offender registration.
In addition, for the courts to consider removing someone from the registry, they must meet certain guidelines.
Depending on the state’s laws, they may need to meet criteria such as:
- Age requirements. They must have been under a certain age when they committed the crime.
- Victim’s age. The victim was at least fifteen when the offense occurred.
- Nature of offense. The sexual conduct was consensual at the time of the offense.
- Probation. During the defendant’s probationary period, they did not violate any of the sex offender terms.
- Other charges. The defendant has not committed another felony during the time they were on the sex offender registry.
- No sexually violent tendencies. A court determined that the defendant likely poses no threat as a sexually violent person, and they face no pending charges for such a crime.
- The number of victims. There was not more than one victim in the original charge.
- The number of offenses. The defendant didn’t get convicted of more than one offense involving more than one victim.
- The seriousness of convictions. The defendant did not receive certain serious or violent convictions, such as sexual assault.
Once the defendant sends the petition to the courts, they may set a hearing and then notify the victim. The defendant may have to attend a hearing to determine if they will get removed from the National Sex Offender Registry. During this hearing, all parties involved could submit evidence indicating if they should get taken off the registry or not.
If the defendant doesn’t meet any of the criteria above, the courts can deny their petition. The courts can also deny the petition if they believe it does not serve the public’s best interest to provide safety.
Contact a Criminal Defense Attorney Near You Today
If you face the intense penalties and consequences of furnishing harmful or obscene materials to a minor, you want a defense attorney by your side. Call a lawyer today.