Obscene Display or Distribution

Obscene Display or Distribution

Obscene Display or Distribution

In the state of Texas, displaying or distributing obscene material can come with criminal consequences. To understand what might constitute an offense of displaying or distributing obscene material, it’s important to understand what makes material obscene. Texas defines material as obscene by using a three-prong test, with subparts.

What is considered Obscene?

The state defines obscene material as something the average person would agree appeals to a “prurient interest” in sex. Additionally, obscene material either describes in words or shows in pictures sexual acts. These acts may be actual or simulated acts and are not limited to sexual intercourse. Acts may expand to both sodomy and bestiality or are descriptions or pictures showing masturbation, sadism, masochism, a lewd showing of genitals, including an erect penis – even if covered by clothing or some other material where the erection is obvious, certain objects designed primarily for sexual stimulation, and some other acts. Finally, in determining whether material is obscene under Texas law, the description or picture must lack value as literature or art, as well as scientific or political value.

When someone intentionally displays such obscene material or distributes a photograph, drawing, or other obscene material without regard to whether another person present will be offended or alarmed by such a showing, they commit the crime of obscene display or distribution.  In addition to displaying such material intentionally, if a person knowingly displays or distributes such material in a reckless manner, they can be charged under the statute.

Display or distribution of obscene material is a Class C misdemeanor in Texas. This means it is punishable by a fine of up to $500.00.

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Penal Code Sec. 43.22


(a)  A person commits an offense if he intentionally or knowingly displays or distributes an obscene photograph, drawing, or similar visual representation or other obscene material and is reckless about whether a person is present who will be offended or alarmed by the display or distribution.

(b)  An offense under this section is a Class C misdemeanor.


Benson Varghese

Managing Partner at Varghese Summersett PLLC
Benson Varghese is the founder and Managing Partner of Varghese Summersett PLLC. He is a prolific writer and has authored hundreds of articles about criminal law in Texas and at the Federal level. His articles have been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Above the Law, and have been selected as Top Blogs by the State Bar of Texas. He was named the Young Lawyer of the Year in 2019 by the Tarrant County Bar Association. Benson led the firm to become one of the 500 fastest growing businesses in the United States by Inc 500 Magazine in 2018. In the same year, the firm was named the Best Law Firm in Fort Worth by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. The lawyers at Varghese Summersett PLLC exclusively handle criminal defense matters.
Benson Varghese