Disseminating Matter Harmful to Minors Charges in Columbus, OH
Disseminating Matter Harmful to Minors
The crime of disseminating matter harmful to minors in Ohio involves intentionally sharing or exhibiting material considered detrimental to children under 18. Sharing harmful materials to juveniles can be a misdemeanor or felony in Ohio. The offense covers activities such as distributing pornography, explicit images, or other inappropriate material for minors. Dissemination can occur in person, through the mail, or online.
If you are charged with disseminating matter harmful to minors in Ohio, seeking legal representation from an experienced criminal defense lawyer is crucial. At Luftman, Heck & Associates, our attorneys have had considerable success defending individuals accused of child sex crimes in Columbus, Ohio, related to endangering children and disseminating harmful materials. Let us evaluate the facts and help you build a defense.
Call (614) 500-3836 for a free and confidential consultation.
Ohio Disseminating Matter Harmful to Minors Charges
Ohio Revised Code § 2907.31 makes it illegal to knowingly disseminate or exhibit any harmful material or performance to juveniles. “Harmful to juveniles” is any material or performance obscene or harmful to children under 18.
“Harmful materials” can take many forms and include the following:
- Text messages
- Social media messages
Violations can be charged as a first-degree misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the circumstances. The maximum penalties can include imprisonment and fines. The statute also includes provisions related to the distribution of sexually oriented materials to juveniles. In addition, it covers the use of minors in the production of obscene material.
Disseminating Harmful Materials in Ohio: Common Examples
Some common instances that may be charged as disseminating matter harmful to minors in Ohio may include, but are not limited to:
- Sending sexually explicit images or videos to a minor through social media or text messaging
- Distributing pornographic material to minors, including magazines or DVDs
- Sharing obscene or sexually explicit materials with minors through email or text
- Showing minors nudity, graphic or violent images, or videos that are not age-appropriate
- Exposing minors to material that promotes hate speech or discrimination based on race, gender, or sexual orientation
As you can see, disseminating harmful material to minors can include many activities. The specific charges will depend on the offense’s nature, the child’s age, and other circumstances. If you are facing charges or have already been arrested in relation to sharing, giving, emailing, or presenting harmful materials to minors in Ohio, it is best to consult with a defense lawyer about your legal options and what to expect.
An attorney can help you navigate the legal system and explore potential defenses, such as arguing that the material in question was not harmful or you didn’t intend to disseminate it to minors.
The Earn it Act
The Eliminating Abusive and Rampant Neglect of Interactive Technologies Act (EARN IT Act) is a bill that was introduced in the United States Senate in 2020. The bill intends to combat online child sexual exploitation by requiring tech companies like Google, Facebook, and Twitter to meet certain standards related to the detection and reporting of child sexual abuse material.
While the proposed legislation is still being finalized, a government commission would be established to develop best practices for online platforms to prevent the distribution of harmful materials to minors.
The bill has not yet been passed into law and has faced opposition from privacy advocates and some tech companies. Critics argue that the Earn it Act weakens online privacy and constitutes an illegal search and seizure, but supporters claim it would protect children from exploitation.
Disseminating Matter Harmful to Minors Penalties
Under Ohio law, disseminating matter harmful to juveniles is a fifth-degree felony if the offender has previously been convicted. If it is a first offense, the charge will likely be a first-degree misdemeanor.
The maximum penalty for a fifth-degree felony is up to a year in prison with a minimum of 6 months and a fine of up to $2,500. The penalty attached for a first-degree misdemeanor conviction of disseminating matter harmful to minors is a maximum of six months in jail and up to a $1,000 fine.
When the offense involves disseminating obscene materials to a minor under 13, it can be charged as a fourth-degree felony. This comes with a minimum of six months in prison or up to 18 months and a fine of up to $5,000.
In addition, disseminating matter harmful to juveniles often accompanies more serious sex crime allegations, such as sexual assault or child pornography. In these cases, you’ll face even more severe penalties, including higher fines, longer prison sentences, and sex offender registration.
Disseminating Harmful Material: Other Consequences
Aside from prison, fines, and a permanent mark on your criminal record, a conviction in Ohio for disseminating matter harmful to juveniles can have several lasting collateral consequences.
Some potential negative consequences of a conviction for disseminating matter harmful to minors include:
- Damage to reputation
- Reduced employment opportunities
- Loss of firearm rights
- Difficulty obtaining professional licenses
- Immigration consequences
- Impact on child custody or visitation
Under Ohio law, individuals convicted of disseminating matter harmful to juveniles may also be required to register as a sex offenders if:
- The offense involved the use of force, violence, or a threat of force or violence
- The offender has a prior conviction for a sexual offense
- The offender was a school employee or volunteer at the time of the offense
Defending Against Disseminating Matter Harmful to Minors Charges
There are several ways that an experienced criminal lawyer can defend against disseminating matter harmful to minor charges in Ohio. Here are a few common defense strategies:
- Lack of intent: This could be a strong defense if the accused did not intend to disseminate the material to minors. For example, if the material was sent to an adult who forwarded it to a minor without the accused’s knowledge, this can be a defense.
- Not harmful to minors: The accused can argue that the material in question was not harmful to minors, either because it did not meet the legal definition of harmful material or because the minor in question was old enough to view it without being harmed.
- Constitutional defenses: The accused can argue that their actions were protected by the First Amendment’s guarantees of freedom of speech and expression. However, this defense may be difficult to sustain in cases where the material is considered obscene or harmful.
- Entrapment: If law enforcement officers or others enticed the accused to distribute the material to minors, this could be a defense.
- Mistaken identity: The accused can argue that they were wrongly identified as the person who disseminated the harmful material.
Remember that each case is unique, and the best defense depends on the details.
Mistake of Age Is Rarely a Defense
According to ORC 2907.31, arguing that you lacked the knowledge or believed the alleged victim was over 18 is seldom an available defense to disseminating matter harmful to juveniles. In most cases, the only way to use mistake of age as a defense is to provide documentation that shows the minor gave false proof of age, such as a driver’s license, that misled you to think the child was of age. Otherwise, you likely won’t be able to use the defense of not knowing the victim’s actual age.
Affirmative Dissemination Defenses
Other affirmative defenses that may apply to charges related to harmful but not obscene materials being presented to minors include:
- The minor’s parents or guardians were present and consented to the material.
- A professional presented the material for a medical, scientific, educational, or another suitable purpose.
- If you disseminated material via a mass distribution method and you were unaware someone who viewed the material was a minor.
Disseminating Matter Harmful to Juveniles FAQs
If you are facing charges related to disseminating matter harmful to minors, we recommend working with a criminal defense lawyer for guidance. Here are some frequently asked questions associated with disseminating harmful material to children in Ohio:
- What materials are considered “harmful to minors?” Ohio law defines “harmful to minors” as any material obscene or harmful to children under 18. This can include sexually explicit material, violent or graphic material, or any other material that is not age appropriate.
- Can I be charged if I didn’t know the recipient was a minor? Yes, you can be charged with disseminating matter harmful to minors in Ohio, even if you did not know that the recipient was a minor. You are responsible for ensuring that the material you share is appropriate for the recipient.
- What is the punishment for Disseminating Matter Harmful to Minors? The penalties for disseminating matter harmful to minors in Ohio vary depending on the circumstances. It will generally be charged as a first-degree misdemeanor or a fifth-degree felony, and the maximum penalties can include imprisonment and fines.
- Can I Defend Against Disseminating Harmful Material Charges? Several potential defense strategies can be used in these cases, including arguing that the material in question was not harmful to minors or that you did not intend to disseminate it to minors. An experienced defense attorney can help you explore all your legal options.
- What Should I Do if I am Charged with Disseminating Harmful Materials to Minors? If you are charged with any child sex offense, seeking legal representation as soon as possible is vital. An experienced lawyer can help you understand your rights and provide a strong defense against them.
Contact a Defense Attorney ASAP
If you’re arrested in Columbus, Ohio, or questioned about disseminating harmful material to a minor, you must take it seriously and assert your right to a lawyer. Do not answer questions or attempt to explain the matter on your own. You need a knowledgeable and experienced criminal defense attorney with a background in sex crime cases to clarify the matter and advocate for you.
At Luftman, Heck & Associates, we have successfully represented many individuals charged with sexual offenses and cases involving inappropriate materials being disseminated to minors. We can find the flaws in the case, present an argument in your favor, and fight for the best possible outcome. For over a decade, LHA has effectively represented clients accused of crimes ranging from minor misdemeanors to first-degree felonies. This lets us better help you.
For a free consultation about how we can help you defend against disseminating harmful material to a minor in Columbus, Ohio, call (614) 500-3836 today.