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Texas Obscenity Laws


Obscenity laws vary widely across the country but generally prohibit the sale or distribution of obscene material.  Most obscenity laws act to control obscenity in states by declaring what is legally obscene, indecent, or morally offensive.  However, courts in the United States and Texas have had difficulty defining exactly what is offensive or not in regards to obscenity laws. 

What is Obscenity in Texas?

Obscenity in Texas refers to anything morally offensive and prohibited by law.  In Texas, there are laws against the obscene display and distribution of, or “knowingly or intentionally distributing or displaying,” the following:

  • An obscene drawing;
  • An obscene photograph
  • Any other visual representation of obscenity
  • Other obscene material

It makes no difference whether or not the offender meant the material to be interpreted as obscene.  The offender need only to have known or should have known that their conduct would cause alarm, harm, or be offensive.

What is the Definition of an Obscene Performance or Material in Texas?

An obscene performance or material in Texas lacks artistic, literary, scientific, or political value and:

  • An individual, applying the standards of a contemporary community, would find it offensive
  • Describes or depicts a normal or perverted act or simulated sexual act that is perceived offensive, such as sexual intercourse or sexual bestiality
  • Contains offensive descriptions or representations of genitals, masturbation, sadism, sexual stimulation

What is the Punishment for Distributing or Displaying Obscene Material in Texas?

Distributing or displaying obscene material is a Class C misdemeanor.  If convicted, an offender faces a maximum possible fine of up to $500.

However, when the offender promotes any obscene material or device on a wholesale basis or possesses that material or device with an intent to promote those items on a wholesale basis, the offense is classified as a Class A misdemeanor.  A Class A misdemeanor carries a maximum fine of $4,000 and up to one year in county jail.

Are There any Defenses to an Obscenity Charge in Texas?

There is an affirmative legal defense to an obscenity charge in Texas.  Under Texas law, anyone who possesses or promotes material or a device prescribed under the Texas Penal Code and does so for a bona fide medical, psychiatric, judicial, legislative, or law enforcement purpose is not in violation of Texas law.   

What to Do If You are Facing an Obscenity Charge in Texas

If you are facing an obscenity charge in Texas, seek experienced legal counsel immediately.  At Hoelscher Gebbia Cepeda, PLLC, one of our San Antonio criminal defense attorneys can evaluate your case and start working right away to mitigate any potential damages an obscenity charge could have on your future.   

At Hoelscher Gebbia Cepeda, PLLC, we will fight aggressively on your behalf and will not back down when fighting for your legal rights and freedom.  We believe in protecting you and achieving the best possible outcome in every legal situation.  Call our San Antonio offices today to learn more about working with our full-service law firm.