Disseminating Obscene Matter

Under Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 272 Section 29, it is a crime to disseminate obscene matter. The elements of disseminating obscene matter, which the government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt, are as follows:

  1. The matter was obscene. "Matter" includes sound recordings, printed material such as books, magazines, and pamphlets, visual material such as films, photographs and pictures, and performances such as plays and dances. In order for something to be obscene, it must meet three requirements: (i) it must appeal to the prurient interest of an average citizen in the county (judged by contemporary standards); (ii) it must depict or describe sexual conduct in a way that would be offense to an average citizen; (iii) it must not have serious political, literary, scientific, or artistic value.

  2. The defendant disseminated or possessed with the intent to disseminate the obscene matter. "Disseminating" means selling, distributing, making, publishing, printing, exhibiting, leasing, and more.

  3. The defendant had knowledge of the character or the matter. Under this statute, this knowledge element only requires a general awareness. Knowledge of the nature of the material is what matters, and it does not matter whether or not the defendant was aware of the legal meaning of obscenity.

For the purposes of determining obscenity, "sexual conduct" includes masturbation, sexual intercourse, touching of genital and other private areas, exhibition of genitals in a lewd manner, exhibition of excretory functions, and torture in a sexual context. Materials that are sexual or erotic or those that describe or show nudity alone are not the same as obscene matter. In order to be obscene, material has to appeal to an unhealthy or morbid sexual interest that goes beyond regular limits. The standard is the perspective if an average adult citizen, and the standards for children or other sensitive persons do not come into play.

This offense is punishable by up to 5 years in the state prison or up to 2 years in a jail or fine of $1,000-$10,000 for a first offense.

Massachusetts Criminal Defense Attorney (617) 973 5858

If you have been charged with dissemination of or possession with intent to disseminate obscene matter, call the Law Office of Robert J. Wheeler, Jr. at (617) 973 5858 (24 hours a day and 7 days a week) or send Robert Wheeler an e-mail. With more than 30 years of practice in criminal defense, Attorney Wheeler is one of the most experienced attorneys that you will find.