Ohio Computer Sex Crime Defense Law Firm

Being charged with a computer sex crime in Ohio can be devastating to the alleged offender and his or her family. It can often feel like the presumption of innocence has been reversed and you or your loved one is now presumed guilty — unfortunately this feeling is not far from reality. While legally a defendant is always presumed innocent, in society it is a different story — especially where the defendant has been charged with a crime involving a child.

Many people refer to computer sex crimes as “child pornography” crimes, whether they refer to them as distribution of child pornography or possession of child pornography. While those terms may be correct when referring to federal law, the Ohio Revised Code doesn’t use the term “child pornography” to describe these offenses. Rather, the computer sex crimes are: (1) pandering obscenity; (2) pandering obscenity involving a minor; (3) pandering sexually oriented material involving a minor; or (4) illegal use of a minor in nudity-oriented material or performance.

The criminal and societal penalties for these crimes can be severe. An effective defense often turns on the evidence of each case, and that is certainly true with regard to computer sex crimes. For those reasons, it is incredibly important to consult with an effective Ohio criminal defense attorney at the earliest stage possible.

Obscenity Defined

There is a 5-part test for determining whether material is obscene under the Ohio Revised Code. The material will be judged as a whole with reference to ordinary adults, or with reference to any specific group it is designed for. The material is “obscene” if any of the following apply:

  1. Its dominant appeal is to prurient interest;
  2. 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;
  3. Its dominant tendency is to arouse lust by displaying or depicting bestiality or extreme or bizarre violence, cruelty, or brutality;
  4. 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 justified purpose;
  5. It contains a series of displays or descriptions of a wide range of sexual activity or bodily functions that appeal to prurient or scatological interests, when the appeal to such an interest is primarily not for a justified purpose.

Pandering Obscenity

Under Ohio Revised Code § 2907.32, the crime of pandering obscenity is committed when a person does any of the following, with knowledge of the character of the material involved:

  1. Creates, reproduces, or publishes any obscene material, when the offender knows that the material is to be used for commercial exploitation or will be publicly disseminated or displayed, or when the offender is reckless in that regard;
  2. Promotes or advertises for sale, delivery, or dissemination; sells, delivers, publicly disseminates, publicly displays, exhibits, presents, rents, or provides; or offers or agrees to sell, deliver, publicly disseminate, publicly display, exhibit, present, rent, or provide, any obscene material;
  3. Creates, directs, or produces an obscene performance, when the offender knows that it is to be used for commercial exploitation or will be publicly presented, or when the offender is reckless in that regard;
  4. Advertises or promotes an obscene performance for presentation, or presents or participates in presenting an obscene performance, when the performance is presented publicly, or when admission is charged;
  5. Buys, procures, possesses, or controls any obscene material with purpose to violate number (2) or (4) above.

One of the affirmative defenses available for this charge is to prove that the material or performance was for some justified purpose (medical, judicial, educational, scientific, et cetera).

The crime of pandering obscenity is generally a felony of the fifth degree, although it may be a felony of the fourth degree if the alleged offender has been convicted of or plead guilty to a previous charge of pandering obscenity or of disseminating material harmful to juveniles.

Pandering Obscenity Involving a Minor

The crime of pandering obscenity involving a minor is defined in Ohio Revised Code § 2907.321. The elements of this crime are the same as the previously mentioned crime, except that the material involves a minor.

Accordingly, the same affirmative defense, that the material or performance was for a justified purpose, is available here. However, it is no defense that there was a mistake regarding the age of the alleged minor. That means that an alleged offender can be convicted even where he or she mistakenly believed that a person involved in the material or performance was over the age of 18.

In fact, the jury can infer that a person in the material is a minor “if the material or performance, through its title, text, visual representation, or otherwise, represents or depicts the person as a minor.”

This crime can be a felony of the second, third, or fourth degree, depending on the alleged offender’s role in the crime and his or her past criminal record.

Pandering Sexually Oriented Matter Involving a Minor

Ohio Revised Code § 2907.322 provides that it is illegal to do any of the following, with knowledge of the character of the material or performance:

  1. Create, record, photograph, film, develop, reproduce, or publish any material that shows a minor participating or engaging in sexual activity;
  2. Advertise for sale or dissemination, sell, distribute, transport, disseminate, exhibit, or display that material;
  3. Create, direct, or produce a performance that shows a minor participating or engaging in sexual activity;
  4. Advertise for presentation, present, or participate in presenting a sexually oriented performance where a minor is a participant;
  5. Knowingly solicit, receive, purchase, exchange, possess, or control any material that shows a minor participating or engaging in sexual activity;
  6. Bring or cause to be brought into this state any material that shows a minor participating or engaging in sexual activity, or bring, cause to be brought, or finance the bringing of any minor into or across this state with the intent that the minor be involved in the production of sexually oriented performances or material.

Like the above offenses, it is not a defense that there was a mistake regarding the minor’s age. However, the affirmative defense of a justified purpose is available to alleged offenders. Although, the jury may infer that a participant in the material or performance is a minor if the material depicts him or her as a minor.

This crime can be a felony of the second, third, or fourth degree, depending on the alleged offender’s role in the crime and his or her past criminal record.  

Illegal Use of a Minor in Nudity-Oriented Material or Performance

Ohio Revised Code § 2907.323 provides that it is illegal to photograph any minor who is not the person’s child or ward in a state of nudity, or create, direct, produce, or transfer any material or performance that shows the minor in a state of nudity, or to view or possess such material, unless:

  1. The material or performance is, or is to be, sold, disseminated, displayed, possessed, controlled, brought or caused to be brought into this state, or presented for a justified purpose; and
  2. The minor’s parents, guardian, or custodian specifically consents in writing.

It is also illegal to consent to the use of the minor in nudity-oriented material unless it is for a justified purpose.

Depending on an alleged offender’s role in this offense, as well as the alleged offender’s past criminal record, the crime can be a felony of the second, fifth, or fourth degree.

Consult an Ohio Computer Sex Crime Defense Lawyer

Please remember that nothing on this page is legal advice. It is simply provided for informational purposes only.

If you would like to consult a Cleveland criminal defense attorney regarding your Ohio computer sex crime charges, you can contact our team at Seeley, Savidge, Ebert & Gourash Co., L.P.A. at (216) 369-9106.