Sex crimes are treated very seriously in Virginia, just the same as in other states across the country. More penalties are given for offenders who are found guilty of obscenity in the state, as this is offensive not just to the victims but also to the acceptable morals of state residents. Penalties, in this case, will include lengthy prison terms and hefty fines. Getting convicted of obscenity is enough to change so many aspects of your life, including professional life.
That is why at Virginia Criminal Attorney, we offer quality legal defense services to ensure that people facing charges for obscenity are tried fairly. If therefore, you are in Fairfax, VA, and Northern Virginia, we can help you fight your charges. We will also ensure that your rights are not violated throughout the legal process.
Use of Computers to Commit Crimes
In this electronic age, personal computers and other devices are being used for various purposes, including as sources of information and as tools of communication. While there are so many good things one can do on a computer, there are people throughout the world who are utilizing these useful machines for the commission of crimes. There are all kinds of crimes that can be facilitated through the use of computers, including theft of personal information from a person's computer and theft of corporate secrets for fraud purposes, among others. Other people use computers in the commission of other violations such as obscenity and related offenses.
The state of Virginia has stringent laws against obscenity and related offenses. There are additional penalties for any offender who uses a computer in such violations. Obscenity, in this case, refers to any offensive act that violated the morals of a particular group of people. Obscenity is, sometimes, equated to pornography, though the latter is seemingly a limited term that is also included in the general umbrella of obscenity. Pornography only refers to any erotic content, whether it is in books, films, magazines, or recordings. However, obscenity will include all that, plus other obscene acts such as nude dancing, and sexually-oriented messages among others
Obscenity also refers to an unhealthy interest in sex or anything shameful. It could also include sexual conduct, nudity, and interest in excretory functions, sexual excitement, and such acts that go beyond the customary limits. The state of Virginia has stringent laws against obscenity and related offenses, with additional penalties for anyone that is found guilty of committing such crimes by the use of a computer.
Laws against Obscene Crimes Virginia
The state of Virginia has an obscenity law that deals with the suppression and regulation of all that is considered obscene. Much of what is regarded as obscene in the state is related to pornography, though sometimes it goes beyond erotic acts and materials. The state has a great interest in public morality and takes responsibility in ensuring that people who are found guilty of producing, selling, or distributing obscene materials are severely punished. Obscene materials, in this case, will include:
- Obscene books
- Obscene pamphlets, leaflets, booklets, magazines, paintings, pictures, drawings, bumper stickers, films, photographs, slide, negative, video recording or motion pictures
- Obscene objects, figures, instruments, and articles. it could also include recordings or transcriptions used or those intended to be used in the dissemination of obscene songs, words, ballads, and sounds
- Obscene writings, pictures, and any other similar visual representation. It could be a sound recording that is stored in an electronic device or any other medium, which could be retrieved any time in a perceivable form
Virginia laws against production, sale, publication, and possession of obscene materials are provided under Section § 18.2-374 of the state laws. This law makes it illegal for any person to do the following knowingly:
- To prepare an obscene material to sell or distribute it
- To copy, print, produce, manufacture or reproduce an obscene material of any nature to sell or distribute it
- To market, publish, lend, rent, transport within the state for sale, exhibit, or distribute any obscene material. It is also an offense to offer to do any of the above
- To possess to sell, lend, rent, distribute, or transport obscene materials. If anyone is found in possession of any obscene items in public or a public place, that will be clear evidence of a violation of this section of Virginia laws
Note that distribution, as used in this law, will be used to refer to any delivery made in person, through a messenger, by mail, or any other means through which the obscene material passed from one person, corporation, or firm to the other.
The laws against production, sale, publication, or financing of child pornography in Virginia are provided under Section § 18.2-374.1 of the state laws. Under this law, child pornography is used to refer to sexually explicit graphic materials that utilize or one that has a recognizable minor as a subject. An identifiable minor is a person that was a child when the visual representation was adapted, created, or modified. It is also one whose appearance as a child was utilized in the creation, adaption, or modification of the visual depiction. The minor must also be recognized as a real person by their face, likeness, and other distinguishing characteristics, including recognizable features and birthmarks.
Note that there will be no need to ask for evidence of the minor’s actual identity in proving that indeed the person in the obscene material was a minor at the time.
Sexually explicit graphic materials, on the other hand, refer to photographs, pictures, motion picture films, drawings, sculptures, digital images, and other similar visual representations that depict sexual bestiality.
A person who could be found guilty of producing child pornography is one who does the following:
- Who entices, accosts or solicits another person below the age of 18, with the plan to force or introduce the minor to be the subject or perform in child pornography
- Who produces, attempts or attempts to create; or one who prepares the production of child pornography
- Who knowingly participates or takes part in the photographing, filming or any other creation of child pornography through any means
- Who knowingly finances, prepares or attempts to finance the production of child pornography
Penalties for Violating Virginia Laws Section § 18.2-374.1
Any person that violates this part of the law, with a subject a minor of below fifteen years, will be penalized by a minimum of five years and a maximum of thirty years in state prison. If the minor is, as a minimum, seven years younger than the offender, the offender will be penalized by a prison term of between five and thirty years, with a five-year minimum mandatory prison term.
If the offender commits another or more of the same offense, with a minor that is, as a minimum, seven years younger than them, he/she will receive a minimum prison term of 15 years and a maximum term of 40 years. Fifteen years will be the minimum mandatory prison term that the offender will be required to serve.
Again, if the minor is at least fifteen years of age but less than eighteen years at the time of the commission of this offense, the offender will receive a state prison sentence of between one and twenty years. However, if the offender is seven years in age more than the victim of child pornography, the offense is punishable by a minimum of three years and a maximum of thirty years in state prison.
People who commit this offense the second or subsequent times, and their victims are more than seven years younger than them will receive a prison sentence of between ten and thirty years. Ten years is the minimum mandatory prison term that the offender will be required to serve.
Note the following:
- The mandatory prison terms provided by the law for this violation will be served successively with all other penalties the offender will receive
- The appearance of the subject of child pornography being younger than eighteen years can be inferred by title, appearance or text
- The place where the offender will be prosecuted for this offense could be where the violation of this law occurred or where the explicit sexually graphic material was found, produced, possessed, or reproduced
Use of Computer in the Violation of Section § 18.2-374.1 of Virginia Laws
According to this law, possession of child pornography materials knowingly is a Class 6 felony offense. It makes it a serious crime that is punishable by a minimum of one year and a maximum of five years in state prison. The offender could also get a maximum of 12 months in jail and a fine of not more than $2,500.
If the offender commits second or more similar offenses, he/she will be guilty of the Class 5 felony. It is a wobbler in the state of Virginia, which means that it can be punished as either a felony or a misdemeanor. If the conviction is a felony, the offender could get between one and ten years in prison if convicted as a misdemeanor. The offender will get a maximum of 12 months in jail and a fine of not more than $2,500.
If a person is found guilty of knowingly committing this offense by use of a computer, the penalties stated above will be heightened to a minimum of five years and a maximum of twenty years in state prison. Violating Section § 18.2-374.1 by use of computer can occur through any of the following:
- Reproducing child pornography materials by the use of computers for selling, giving away, distributing, electronically transmitting, purchasing, displaying or just owning the contents in your computer for sale, distributing, transmitting or displaying
- Entreating, commanding or attempting to persuade another person to submit, send or provide you with any child pornography material to gain entry into an association, group or assembly of people involved in the trade or sharing of similar materials
Any person who commits the same offense two or more times will get a minimum mandatory prison term of five years, with a maximum of twenty years in state prison. Note that this mandatory prison term mentioned here will be served consecutively with any other sentence the offender might get.
A person that intentionally operates internet websites intending to facilitate payments for access to child pornography materials is guilty of Class 4 felony. The offense is punishable by between two and ten years of prison time with a maximum fine of $100,000.
Note the following:
- Any person that is under suspicion for child pornography will be subject to a legal search, seizure, and forfeiture, as provided under Section§ 19.2-386.31 of Virginia laws.
- This law will not apply to any person that may be in possession of sexually explicit materials for genuine reasons such as for scientific, medical, governmental, judiciary, or law-enforcement purposes. Such persons could either be psychologists, physicians, attorneys, scientists, law enforcement agency employees, judges, or clerks, who may come across such materials in the line of their professional duties.
Virginia Laws against Obscene Performances and Exhibitions
This law is provided under Section § 18.2-375 of Virginia Statutes. It makes it illegal or nay person to knowingly do the following:
- Prepare, produce, promote, manage, present, direct, participate in, or carry on with any obscene performances or exhibitions. These include all performances and exhibitions of obscene pictures, motions, drama, play, entertainment, show, tableau, exposition, or scene. The law, however, protects employees of people or entities that present such obscene performances or exhibitions against prosecution if that employee is not the manager or officer of that entity of theatre and has no financial interest in the theatre other than receiving his/her wages/salary.
- Owns, manages, or leases any building theatre, garden, structure, place, or room that will be used to present obscene performances and exhibitions. It is also illegal for any person to give a permit to such a building or theatre or to fail to provide the name and address of the person residing or managing such a facility.
Advertising of obscene materials, performances and exhibitions is also illegal as provided under Section § 18.2-376 of Virginia laws. Advertising, in this case, refers to preparing, printing, publishing, circulating, or causing obscene materials to be printed, prepared, distributed, or published. The same laws will apply to any person that will state or indicate where such obscene materials can be obtained, heard, seen, or purchased.
If any person is found guilty of using a computer in the commission of these offenses, that is, Sections § 18.2-374, 18.2-375, and § 18.2-376, e/she will face charges for a different and separate Class I Misdemeanor. If the offender commits the same offense twice or more times within ten years, he/she will be guilty of a Class 6 felony. These penalties will be imposed in addition to the other penalties the offender will get for the underlying offense.
Virginia Laws Against Use of Obscene Placards, Bills, and Posters
Section § 18.2-377 makes it illegal for any person to do the following knowingly:
- Expose, display, place, post up, paint, exhibit, and mark or print obscene materials in a building, structure, fence, wall, or billboard and streets or any public place
- Cause another person to do any of the above
Obscene materials, in this case, will be in the form of posters, placards, banners, bills, pictures or writings
The same law will be applied to anyone who permits such materials to be displayed on a property they own or control.
Virginia Laws against Use of Motion Pictures, Photographs and Slides
Section § 18.2-382 of Virginia laws make it illegal for any person to do the following knowingly:
- Take pictures of themselves or any person with a plan to prepare an obscene photograph, film, slide, negative or motion images for distribution or sale
- Pose, model, act or even assist in the preparation of indecent pictures, films, slides, negatives, or motion pictures intended for distribution or sale
Any person found guilty of any of the above will be convicted to Class 3 misdemeanor, which is punishable by a maximum fine of $500.
Possible Legal Defenses for Enhanced Crimes for Using Computer in Virginia
A conviction for obscenity is not the kind of entry a person would like to have in their criminal record. Other than the severe penalties they are associated with, obscene crimes will damage your reputation and affect other aspects of your life, including your professional and social life. That is why it is advisable to fight your charges if you are facing charges for obscenity. What you need is the help of an experienced criminal attorney. Depending on the circumstances of your case, he/she might get your charges reduced or dropped. The good thing is that several legal defenses can be used to fight obscenity charges:
The legal definition of obscenity is not conclusive, such that one can tell what is obscene from what is not. What one person may consider obscene may not be regarded as the same by others. A person may be arrested for possessing a book believed to be obscene, for instance, while in the real sense, what is contained in the book does not go beyond the acceptable moral standards. By using this defense, your attorney will try to counter the evidence presented before the court by the prosecutor, by stating that the material that was in your possession was not obscene. If the court agrees, or the definition of what is obscene and what is not cleared, it might be compelled to drop your charges.
An essential element for most obscene crimes is that a person knowingly acted the way they did, whether it is in possessing, distributing, or selling obscene materials. As used in this case, intentionally means that the person acted purposely, knowing the implications of their actions and the exact nature of what was in their possession. Example: A person was arrested because of an obscene child pornography film that was found in a house he/she shared with three others. There is a chance that the person was unaware of the presence of that material in that house. If that is the case, the person cannot be found guilty of obscenity, and their charges will be dropped.
As mentioned above, an exception to obscene laws in Virginia is if the person legally possesses obscene materials. The law may excuse certain people for possessing sexually graphic materials. These are, for instance, law enforcement officers, physicians, psychologists, attorneys, and judges, among others. However, this is only allowed if they can prove that the material in their possession was critical in their line of work. If that is your case, your attorney should be able to prove to the court your reasons for possessing such materials.
Sometimes law enforcement officers working undercover could lure a person to comment on an offense they would otherwise not have committed in different circumstances. If you believe that you were lured by the police to commit the offense, your attorney could cite entrapment in your defense. Maybe the police might have used harassment, pressure, fraud, threats, or flattery to get you to commit an obscene crime. The court will accept this defense as long as there is proof that you only committed the offense because of the entrapment.
Find a Fairfax Criminal Lawyer Near Me
Obscenity is a severe criminal offense, not just in Virginia but across the country. There are strict federal laws that make it illegal for any person to acquire, distribute, transport, mail, sell, or produce any obscene materials. Virginia laws against obscenity are more stringent on people who commit such offenses by the use of computers. If, therefore, you are facing such charges, you need to hire the best criminal legal defense services you can get. This is because penalties could be very stiff, including lengthy prison terms. At Virginia Criminal Attorney, we have a team of competent criminal defense attorneys who can help fight your charges for a fair outcome. If you are in Fairfax, VA, and Northern Virginia, call us at 703-718-5533 today.