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What Is Disseminating Obscene Materials in Iowa?

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Section 728.2 of the Iowa Code prohibits any person from knowingly distributing obscene materials to minors unless the person is the child's parent or guardian. The offense is a serious misdemeanor, carrying jail time and a requirement to register as a sex offender. Thus, the penalties for violating this law are steep.

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What Is Considered Distributing Obscene Materials?

For a person to be charged with and/or convicted of disseminating obscene materials to minors, the State must prove that the person acted knowingly, that they disseminated or exhibited obscene material, that the person to whom they gave the materials was underage, and that the depiction provided was obscene. Let's look at each of these elements in a bit more detail.

Section 728.1of the Iowa Code provides the following definitions:

  • Knowingly: For someone to act knowingly in an alleged violation of Section 728.2, that person must have been aware that the material they were providing to the minor was obscene.
  • Disseminate or exhibit: To disseminate means to give the depiction to another person. In contrast, to exhibit does not involve physically handing something to someone. Instead, it involves displaying the material somewhere that the minor could observe it – whether they are on or off the property where the material is displayed.
  • Underage: The law applies when someone gives a minor obscene material. A minor is defined as a person under 18 years of age.
  • Obscene: Material is considered obscene if it depicts any of the following:
    • Genitals,
    • Sex acts,
    • Masturbation,
    • Excretory functions,
    • Sadomasochistic abuse.

Additionally, when the community's standards are applied, obscene materials are considered to appeal to prurient interests (meaning encouraging excessive interests in sexual matters) or to be offensive. They also do not make any serious contribution to society in terms of literary, scientific, political, or artistic value.

  • Material: Several types of matter can be obscene materials. These include, but are not limited to:
    • Books,
    • Drawings,
    • Photographs, or
    • Motion pictures.

This includes distributing content minors through Facebook posts, Snapchat, TikTok, group texts or messaging, and other social media platforms.

What Are the Penalties for Disseminating Obscene Materials to Minors?

As noted earlier, disseminating obscene materials to minors is a serious misdemeanor.

In Iowa, this level of offense is punishable by:

  • Up to 1 year in jail and/or
  • $430 to $2,560 in fines.

Also, the crime is a Tier I sex offender offense, meaning that if someone is convicted, that person will be required to register as a sex offender with their local law enforcement agency for up to ten years.

If they fail to comply with the sex offender registration requirement, that person may be charged with the crime of failing to register, which is an aggravated misdemeanor and carries a term of incarceration of up to two years and a fine of up to $8,540.

Speak with an Attorney About Your Case

In Iowa, disseminating obscene material to minors is a serious crime with severe punishments. Because of the nuances of the law and the legal system, if you have been accused, consult with a criminal defense lawyer.

At Branstad & Olson, we are ready to go to work for you. We will be your zealous advocates prepared to seek a favorable outcome on your behalf.

To schedule a free consultation with a member of our Des Moines team, call us at (515) 329-3100 or contact us online today.

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