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What Is Obscenity and Does It Limit Your Right to Free Speech?

We are all familiar with the First Amendment to the United States Constitution-it provides all citizens with the right to "freedom of speech." But that is quite an oversimplification because, while we do have the freedom to speak our mind in some cases, there are limits on what we can legally say.

One such limit is what is called obscenity. Obscene speech is not protected by the First Amendment and may be punished by state governments. In fact, Florida lawmakers have chosen to punish certain speech that they deem as obscene.

Obscene Speech in Florida

What can constitute obscene speech in Florida is difficult to define exactly, but, as some people say, "while you can't exactly define it, you'll know it when you see it." For example, child pornography is something that is considered obscene by the State of Florida. The legal definition of obscenity has three parts to it:

  • The average person, applying contemporary community standards, would find, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest;
  • Depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct as specifically defined herein; and
  • Taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.

Rewritten in plain English these elements could be phrased as:

  • The material is sexually focused
  • The material describes, in an offense way, some kind of sexual conduct or act; and
  • The material does not have any artistic, scientific, or political value.
Punishments for Obscenity in Florida

Depending on the severity of the specific act of obscenity, the punishment may be as little as a noncriminal infraction or as serious as a first degree felony. For example, the first time a minor is caught "sexting", the punishment is 8 hours of community service and a $60 fine. The second time the crime is punished as a first-degree misdemeanor which can carry a penalty of

  • Up to a year in jail; and
  • A fine of up to $1,000.

However, providing a minor with obscene material is a more serious offense. That crime is considered a third degree felony, punishable by:

  • Up to 5 years in jail; and
  • A fine of up to $5,000.
Are You Facing Obscenity Charges?

If you are being investigated for obscenity, or have recently been arrested for obscenity, you need to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately. Judge and juries are not always sympathetic to these types of crimes, especially if they involve children. The longer your attorney has to prepare your case, the better he or she can make you appear in front of the jury.

The Hanlon Law Firm has substantial experience defending those accused of these types of crimes. The experienced Florida Criminal defense attorneys at the Hanlon Law Firm approach the case in a non-judgmental, professional manner. While not every case can end in an acquittal, the lawyers at the Hanlon Law Firm have the dedication and know how to confidently handle any type of case. Contact the attorneys at Hanlon Law today for a confidential consultation.