Disseminating Matter Harmful to Juveniles

Alleged offenders who provide material to juveniles—unmarried people under 18 years of age—that is deemed to be obscene or harmful to juveniles can face criminal charges. Depending on the specific types of material that was allegedly provided, this offense is a sex crime that can be a misdemeanor or felony offense.

People convicted of these crimes not only face possible incarceration and fines, but convictions can cause serious long-term difficulty when it comes to obtaining employment, housing, or professional licensing. The age of the juvenile involved can also impact the possible severity of the possible sentence.

Lawyer for Disseminating Matter Harmful to Juveniles Offenses in Columbus, OH

If you were arrested for allegedly disseminating matter harmful to juveniles in Central Ohio, it is in your best interest to not say anything to authorities without legal representation. Joslyn Law Firm aggressively defends clients all over Pickaway County, Union County, Delaware County, Fairfield County, Franklin County, Licking County, and Madison County.

Columbus criminal defense attorney Brian Joslyn has been named a Top 10 criminal defense lawyer in Ohio by the National Academy of Criminal Defense Attorneys and was selected one of Central Ohio’s “Top Lawyers” by Columbus CEO Magazine. He can provide an honest and thorough evaluation of your case as soon as you call (614) 444-1900 to take advantage of a free, confidential consultation.


Ohio Disseminating Matter Harmful to Juveniles Information Center


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Disseminating Matter Harmful to Juveniles Charges in Franklin County

Ohio Revised Code § 2907.31 makes it a crime for any person, with knowledge of its character or content, to recklessly do any of the following:

  • Directly sell, deliver, furnish, disseminate, provide, exhibit, rent, or present to a juvenile, a group of juveniles, a law enforcement officer posing as a juvenile, or a group of law enforcement officers posing as juveniles any material or performance that is obscene or harmful to juveniles;
  • Directly offer or agree to sell, deliver, furnish, disseminate, provide, exhibit, rent, or present to a juvenile, a group of juveniles, a law enforcement officer posing as a juvenile, or a group of law enforcement officers posing as juveniles any material or performance that is obscene or harmful to juveniles; or
  • While in the physical proximity of the juvenile or law enforcement officer posing as a juvenile, allow any juvenile or law enforcement officer posing as a juvenile to review or peruse any material or view any live performance that is harmful to juveniles.

Ohio Revised Code § 2907.01(J) defines “material” as “any book, magazine, newspaper, pamphlet, poster, print, picture, figure, image, description, motion picture film, phonographic record, or tape, or other tangible thing capable of arousing interest through sight, sound, or touch and includes an image or text appearing on a computer monitor, television screen, liquid crystal display, or similar display device or an image or text recorded on a computer hard disk, computer floppy disk, compact disk, magnetic tape, or similar data storage device.” Under Ohio Revised Code § 2907.01(E), "harmful to juveniles" is defined as that quality of any material or performance describing or representing nudity, sexual conduct, sexual excitement, or sado-masochistic abuse in any form to which all of the following apply:

  • The material or performance, when considered as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest of juveniles in sex;
  • The material or performance is patently offensive to prevailing standards in the adult community as a whole with respect to what is suitable for juveniles; and
  • The material or performance, when considered as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, and scientific value for juveniles.

An alleged offender can be charged with this crime if he or she directly sells, delivers, furnishes, disseminates, provides, exhibits, rents, or presents or directly offers or agrees to sell, deliver, furnish, disseminate, provide, exhibit, rent, or present material or a performance to a law enforcement officer posing as a juvenile or a group of law enforcement officers posing as juveniles by means of an electronic method of remotely transmitting information (such as text messages containing sexual material, commonly referred to as “sexting”) if the alleged offender knows or has reason to believe that the person receiving the information is a juvenile or the group of persons receiving the information are juveniles. A person remotely transmitting information by means of a method of mass distribution commits no offense, however, if either of the following applies:

  • The alleged offender had inadequate information to know or have reason to believe that a particular recipient of the information or offer was a juvenile; or
  • The method of mass distribution does not provide the alleged offender the ability to prevent a particular recipient from receiving the information.

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Disseminating Matter Harmful to Juveniles Penalties in Columbus

When the material or performance involved in an alleged offender is harmful to juveniles, the crime is classified as a first-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to 180 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000. Disseminating matter harmful to juveniles becomes a fifth-degree felony punishable by if up to 12 months in prison and/or a fine of up to $2,500 if the material or performance involved is obscene.

Ohio Revised Code § 2907.01(F) establishes that any material or performance is considered "obscene" when considered as a whole, and judged with reference to ordinary adults or, if it is designed for sexual deviates or other specially susceptible group, judged with reference to that group, if any of the following apply:

  • Its dominant appeal is to prurient interest;
  • Its dominant tendency is to arouse lust by displaying or depicting sexual activity, masturbation, sexual excitement, or nudity in a way that tends to represent human beings as mere objects of sexual appetite;
  • Its dominant tendency is to arouse lust by displaying or depicting bestiality or extreme or bizarre violence, cruelty, or brutality;
  • Its dominant tendency is to appeal to scatological interest by displaying or depicting human bodily functions of elimination in a way that inspires disgust or revulsion in persons with ordinary sensibilities, without serving any genuine scientific, educational, sociological, moral, or artistic purpose; or
  • It contains a series of displays or descriptions of sexual activity, masturbation, sexual excitement, nudity, bestiality, extreme or bizarre violence, cruelty, or brutality, or human bodily functions of elimination, the cumulative effect of which is a dominant tendency to appeal to prurient or scatological interest, when the appeal to such an interest is primarily for its own sake or for commercial exploitation, rather than primarily for a genuine scientific, educational, sociological, moral, or artistic purpose.

If the material or performance involved was obscene and the juvenile to whom it was allegedly sold, delivered, furnished, disseminated, provided, exhibited, rented, or presented, the juvenile to whom the offer was made or who was the subject of the agreement, or the juvenile who was allowed to review, peruse, or view it was under 13 years of age, the offense becomes a fourth-degree felony punishable by if up to 18 months in prison and/or a fine of up to $5,000.


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Disseminating Matter Harmful to Juveniles Defenses in Franklin County

Ohio Revised Code § 2907.31 also establishes certain affirmative defenses to criminal charges of disseminating matter harmful to juveniles. If the material or a performance was harmful to juveniles but not obscene, an alleged offender may be able to assert any of the following affirmative defenses:

  • The alleged offender is the parent, guardian, or spouse of the juvenile involved;
  • The juvenile involved, at the time of the conduct in question, was accompanied by the juvenile's parent or guardian who, with knowledge of its character, consented to the material or performance being furnished or presented to the juvenile; or
  • The juvenile exhibited to the alleged offender or to the alleged offender's agent or employee a draft card, driver's license, birth record, marriage license, or other official or apparently official document purporting to show that the juvenile was 18 years of age or over or married, and the person to whom that document was exhibited did not otherwise have reasonable cause to believe that the juvenile was under the age of 18 and unmarried.

When the material or a performance involved was obscene or harmful to juveniles, it is also an affirmative defense for an alleged offender to claims that the material or performance was furnished or presented for a bona fide medical, scientific, educational, governmental, judicial, or other proper purpose, by a physician, psychologist, sociologist, scientist, teacher, librarian, clergyman, prosecutor, judge, or other proper person. Mistake of age, however, cannot be used as a defense to a disseminating matter harmful to juveniles charge.


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Ohio Disseminating Matter Harmful to Juveniles Resources

Substitute teacher who showed graphic movie to classes sentenced to 90 days in jail — On March 4, 2015, 58-year-old substitute teacher Sheila Kearns was convicted of four counts of disseminating matter harmful to juveniles after she showed the movie “The ABCs of Death” to her classes in April 2013. According to the Columbus Dispatch, Franklin County Common Pleas Judge Charles A. Schneider criticized Columbus City Schools “for putting Spanish-language classes at East High School in the hands of a long-term substitute who didn’t know Spanish” and sentenced Kearns to 90 days in jail. The unrated movie consisted of 26 chapters involving death with some containing nudity and sex acts.

State v. Gleason, 110 Ohio App.3d 240, 242 (Ohio Ct. App. 1996) — William E. Gleason was indicted in 1991 on four counts of rape and four counts of gross sexual imposition allegedly committed in 1984 and/or 1985 involving two minor children. The indictment was later amended to add two counts of disseminating matter harmful to juveniles, one count for each child. Gleason was able to suppress evidence obtained during a warrantless search of his home, but a jury found him guilty of both counts of disseminating matter harmful to juveniles. He appealed the decision, and the Ohio Court of Appeals reduced his third-degree felony convictions to first-degree misdemeanors.


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Joslyn Law Firm | Columbus Disseminating Matter Harmful to Juveniles Lawyer

Were you recently arrested in Central Ohio for allegedly disseminating matter harmful to juveniles? You should contact Joslyn Law Firm as soon as possible for help possibly getting the criminal charges reduced or dismissed.

Brian Joslyn is an experienced criminal defense attorney in Columbus who represents clients all over Franklin County, including Whitehall, Worthington, Bexley, Dublin, Gahanna, Grove City, Hilliard, Reynoldsburg, Upper Arlington, Westerville, and many other surrounding communities. Call (614) 444-1900 or submit an online contact form today to have our lawyer review your case and discuss your legal options during a free initial consultation.


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