Massachusetts Legal Developments Blog

Defending Against Charges of Dissemination of Obscene Material in Massachusetts


A Massachusetts doctor was recently arrested after a four-month investigation by law enforcement. The doctor is accused of giving a young boy cash in exchange for sex. Communication between the doctor and the boy is alleged to have included images of child pornography. The hospital that employed the physician has since terminated the doctor from his position.

Later, during a search of the doctor’s home, investigators seized several communication devices, narcotics, and child pornography. The doctor has since been charged with sex trafficking, possession of child pornography, two counts of electronic enticement of a child for prostitution, and two counts of disseminating obscene matter to a minor.

In the state of Massachusetts, charges of dissemination of obscene material have the potential to result in serious penalties. In these situations, it is a wise idea to obtain the assistance of an experienced attorney who can create a strong defense strategy. The following will review some of the most common defenses that are raised in response to these charges.

Prosecution Failed to Establish an Element of the Offense

To convict a person of a criminal offense, the prosecution must establish each element of a criminal offense beyond a reasonable doubt. If you are convicted of the dissemination of obscene material in Massachusetts, General Laws Chapter 272 Section 29 can result in you facing a maximum of several years of imprisonment. The elements of the dissemination of obscene material include the following:

  • The material involved must be obscene

  • The person being charged disseminated the material or possessed the material with the intent to disseminate it, and

  • The defendant understood the obscene nature of the material. Under Massachusetts law, obscene material can include any printed or visual materials, which most often includes books, films, magazines, and photographs.

To fully understand these three elements, it is critical to understand what constitutes obscene material. To be classified as obscene, material must meet three elements:

  • The material must appeal to the prurient interest of an average person who lives in the county where the offense occurred

  • The material must display sexual conduct in an offensive way to an average person who lives in the county, and

  • The material must lack any artistic, literary, or scientific value.

The Behavior Was Protected Under the First Amendment

The First Amendment of the United States Constitution protects a person’s freedom of expression as well as speech. If the material possesses any type of artistic, literary, or scientific value, then the work is likely protected under the First Amendment and a person cannot be convicted of the dissemination of the material.

Libraries, Museums, and Schools

If a person is able to establish that obscene material was being collected for a bona fide library, museum, or school, it is possible to raise a strong defense. If a person was acting in the course of employment for a bona fide library, or museum, or school, a strong defense can also be raised.

Contact an Experienced Criminal Defense Lawyer

If you or a loved one has been charged with the offense of the dissemination of obscene material, do not hesitate to contact experienced criminal defense attorney Edward Molari.