Obscenity Law and Legal Definition

State laws on obscenity vary by state. Obscenity is highly subjective and is defined according to community standards. Lewdness is one of the crimes that falls under the category of obscenity. The words "obscene, lewd and lascivious" as used in the law, signify that form of immorality which has relation to sexual impurity and has a tendency to excite lustful thoughts. To be commit a criminally lewd act is generally defined as when a person:

  1. exposes his anus or genitals in a public place and is reckless about whether another may be present who will be offended or alarmed by his act; or
  2. does any lewd act in a public place which he knows is likely to be observed by others who would be affronted or alarmed.

Obscene matter is defined as acts or printed matter, film, or photographs which:

  1. Applying contemporary local community standards, on the whole, appeals to the prurient interest; and
  2. Is patently offensive; and
  3. On the whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value.

It may be a crime to possess, sell, distribute, or produce obscene material.

Obscenity is something that is patently offensive in the mind of the audience experiencing it. Its definition is a highly subjective reference to material or acts which display or describe sexual activity in a manner appealing only to "prurient interest," and lacks any legitimate artistic, literary or scientific purpose.

Pictures, writings, film or public acts which are found to be obscene are deemed of no social value and not protected by the free speech guarantee of the First Amendment. However, there is no precise definition and one Supreme Court Justice stated, "I can't define it, but I know it when I see it." Standards vary by local community in defining accepted standards.

Local laws need to be consulted for the applicable law and standards in your area.