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State laws prohibit access by juveniles to explicit materials

By Sun Advocate

Many Carbon County residents frequently voice concerns regarding the exposure of local youth to sexually oriented materials.
The materials include messages printed on magazine covers, recorded in videos as well as compact disks and posted in public information forums.
However, Utah has established two criminal statutes specifically designed to assist parents in protecting children.
The first guideline prohibits dealing in materials harmful to minors younger that the age of 18 years old, indicated the Utah Attorney General’s Office.
Pursuant to the statute, businesses and individuals cannot legally show or give juveniles materials containing nudity or depicting conduct that:
•When taken as a whole, appeals to a minor’s prurient interest in sex.
•Is patently offensive according to prevailing standards in the adult community with respect regarding what is suitable material for minors.
•Lacks serious value for minors.
For example, selling a Playboy magazine or a cable version XXX pornographic video to a 15-year-old constitutes a criminal offense, noted the attorney general’s office.
The second Utah statute prohibits publicly displaying sexually explicit materials in places accessible to minors younger than 18 years of age.
The law applies to motion picture theaters, plays, video tapes, still photographs, books, compact disks, magazine covers and public displays presented in a manner to provoke or arouse lust or passion or to exploit perversion, explained the Utah Attorney General’s Office.
For example, magazines containing pictures of nude people in sexual poses cannot be legally displayed at the checkout stands for youth waiting in line to view.
In addition, theaters allowing access to minors must comply with the indecent public display law. But parents should consider the entire movie – not one scene – when evaluating the content, advised the attorney general’s office.
The United States Supreme Court has issued several decisions confirming that minors can be protected from adult materials without violating the youth’s First Amendment rights, pointed out the attorney general’s office.
In 1957, the U.S. Supreme Court heard a complaint challenging a Michigan law making all materials classified as inappropriate for children unlawful for adults to view or possess.
After weighing the arguments in the 1957 lawsuit, the federal court justices ruled that the Michigan law violated adults’ First Amendment rights.
In 1968, the Ginsberg versus New York lawsuit challenged a state law prohibiting minors from accessing adult materials.
The plaintiff argued that placing a more restrictive standard on children was unconstitutional.
Even though materials may not be considered obscene for adults, the 1968 court decision specified that states can regulate sales and apply different legal standards without violating a youth’s First Amendment rights.
Seven years later in Erznoznik versus the city of Jacksonville, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states and municipalities can adopt stringent controls on communicative materials made available to youth at locations across America.
But minors residing within the boundaries of the United States are still entitled to a receive a “significant measure of First Amendment protection,” added the federal court’s decision in the Erznoznik civil complaint.
After confirming that minors can be protected from sexually explicit or erotic materials by passage of state and local statutes, the court found a local public display law banning all nudity to be unconstitutional.
All nudity “cannot be deemed obscene, even as to minors,” noted the federal justices in the ruling in the lawsuit issued by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Inappropriate materials may be regulated by state and local governments, but cannot be completely outlawed, pointed out the attorney general’s Office.
According to the Utah Attorney General’s Office, the federal court decisions in the civil complaints clearly specify that:
•Adult materials not classified as obscene/pornographic are protected by the First Amendment.
Individuals older than 18 years of age have the right to view, possess and distribute the materials to adults.
•Adult materials not labeled obscene or pornographic can still be harmful to minors.
State and local governments have the legal right to regulate the distribution of the materials in question to children.
But nudity must be erotic or sexual and posed or displayed in an explicit manner to fall under the restrictions.
•Not all nudity is harmful to minors.
Examples of legally acceptable nudity include anatomy and medical books showing various parts of the human body, books or news clips depicting cultures where nudity is indigenous and artistic pieces like Michelangelo’s statue of David, explained the state attorney general’s office.
Citizens residing in the Carbon area should report suspected violations of the state’s public display and harmful materials statutes to appropriate local police agencies or the county sheriff’s department for criminal investigation, concluded the Utah Attorney General’s Office.

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