Is Obscenity A Felony In Louisiana Or Is It A Misdemeanor Crime?
As society continues to develop and social mores change over time, you may find yourself asking “Is obscenity a felony in Louisiana?” This has caused many artists, writers, and business owners concern when they realize that many of their products and practices may be considered obscene. Understanding how the State of Louisiana determines whether or not something is obscene may reveal previously unknown legal issues.
Who Determines What Is Legally Obscene
Obscenity is defined under Louisiana criminal law, revised statute title 14, section 106 (RS 14:106). The law is available in its entirety from the Louisiana State Legislature. One thing to be aware of, however: It is possible for parishes to have their own obscenity laws which may be stricter than those set by the state. You should be sure to check your local code of ordinances to determine if you are violating any local obscenity laws.
What Does Louisiana Consider “Obscene”
In the eyes of the State of Louisiana, there are multiple factors that may lead to an act or material being obscene. At its core, though, two of these factors carry the greatest weight:
1. The act or material involves the exposure of genitals or pubic hair, excretory orifices, or female nipples in public (including prison or jail) with the intent of arousing desire or causing offense.
2. The act or material involves the execution or dissemination of hard-core sexual conduct.
While the descriptions above appear to give clear guidance regarding obscenity, there are many other points that complicate the issue.
Can Something Be Obscene If It Involves Consenting Adults
Under Louisiana legal code? Yes.
Louisiana defines numerous states of undress or sexual acts as obscene, often based on context. This is regardless of either the number of participants or their willing engagement in said acts. Under this section of Louisiana law, there are additional modifiers to each state of undress or act that increase the likelihood it is deemed obscene. Let’s examine a few.
States of undress:
• Even if a person is wearing undergarments or a costume, if any of the aforementioned areas are exposed then it is considered obscene. • Display of those states of undress includes pictorial representations.
Sexual acts considered hard-core:
• Sexual acts between two people, animals, or a combination of both. • Masturbation.
• Sadomasochistic abuse.
• Any of the above in simulated or animated forms.
• Touching, caressing, or fondling any COVERED genitals or pubic hair, excretory orifices, or female nipples.
But What About Freedom Of Speech?
Free speech is regularly entwined with subjective standards in ways that complicate obscenity designations. Throughout RS 14:106, there are sections discussing the effects of different forms of expression on the designation of hard core acts and states of undress. Essentially, if any of those acts or states of undress lack serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value, they will be declared obscene.
You can probably guess problems that arise from this. With respect to literature, art, and politics, peoples’ values often vary dramatically. What has no value to one person is indispensable to another. The arts in particular have a long history of subverting and resetting social norms.
Compounding this problem is the law’s reliance on the average person applying contemporary community standards to determine an act’s obscenity. As with the assigned value of speech, the standards of decency and obscenity shift by community. Different communities within the state often have different value sets—one parish may be more liberal or conservative than another. This creates a difficult sliding scale by which an act may be deemed obscene.
Are These The Only Louisiana Laws I Should Be Worried About Concerning Obscenity?
Unfortunately, no. Just as states can create more restrictive laws than the federal government, parishes can do the same. Local community standards, as mentioned above, may be more conservative than state law. In this event, residents of said parishes may have to deal with stricter obscenity designations. These conflicts in local, state, and federal laws are nothing new and often lead to some highly publicized court challenges. Even in these cases, the subjective legal opinions of ruling judges does not guarantee more restrictive laws will be overturned.
Worse yet, many parts of Louisiana’s obscenity law may result in violations also being subject to laws regarding telecommunications and minors. An act being declared obscene may be the first of many legal troubles to follow. This could trigger additional criminal charges under different sections.
How Do I Make Sure I Am Not Violating Obscenity Laws?
If you’re concerned that your lifestyle or business puts you at risk of violating obscenity laws, the first thing you should do is find good legal counsel. An established criminal attorney familiar with local, state, and federal obscenity laws can give you the best guidance. Don’t make the mistake of trusting the opinion of just anyone; find a legal subject matter expert.
Final Words: Is Obscenity A Felony In Louisiana?
Yes. Obscenity is a felony in Louisiana.
Louisiana’s legislature has made their stance clear regarding obscene acts. Therefore, defining something as obscene can bring about serious consequences. If you’re worried about violating these laws, don’t hesitate in calling a knowledgeable attorney.
Now you know the answer regarding whether or not obscenity is a felony in Louisiana. If you are faced with obscenity charges you should consider hiring a criminal defense attorney. And if you are located in Louisiana, Carl Barkemeyer offers tough legal representation for obscenity charges in Baton Rouge and many of the surrounding areas. Give us a call or schedule your consultation today.