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Florida Criminalizes Owning & Distributing “Childlike Sex Dolls”

CrimDef4

In late May, Florida made it illegal (i.e. a second- or third-degree felony) to own (sell, distribute, etc.) a “childlike sex doll.” Specifically, the law prohibits someone from “knowingly having in his or her possession custody or control an obscene childlike sex doll” under the justification that owning these dolls encourages child predators.

The law officially goes into effect in October 2019. However, opponents of the measure point out that the ability to own these dolls may actually be deterring child predators from acting out their impulses on actual victims.

Concerns Over Child Welfare

The Florida Senate made its decision after being presented with one-sided evidence from experts arguing that using these dolls would likely “reinforce pedophilic ideation” for some, and, due to the risk of reoffending associated with these kinds of activities, child molesters gaining access to these dolls could positively reinforce their behavior, which would pose a threat to children. Others have also expressed concern that the dolls’ nature normalizes the type of behavior that involves an adult molesting a child.

Previous Attempts at Prosecuting This “Crime”

Prior to now, prosecutors have, at times, tried to bring pornography charges against those who possess these dolls, but these charges have typically been dismissed in court. This is because possession of these dolls could not technically child pornography; given that no child was actually involved.

What About First Amendment Rights? Is This Technically Obscenity?

In addition, First Amendment rights guaranteeing the right to free speech may be implicated here; even if this is not the case for child pornography and obscenity because neither of those qualifies as free speech.

Specifically, the U.S. Supreme Court developed a test to determine whether something technically qualifies as obscenity; whereby it qualifies if:

  • the average person would find appeals to the prurient interest;
  • it depicts or describes sexual conduct in a “patently offensive way”; and
  • it lacks artistic, literary, political, or scientific value.

Florida law also criminalizes a number of acts that it considers linked to obscenity, such as distributing, selling, or transmitting obscene materials. However, it is important to note that the First Amendment still protects private possession of obscenity in one’s own home.

The U.S. Supreme Court has articulated a different standard for determining whether something is child pornography (as exempt from First Amendment protections) in an effort to protect children. Based on previous case precedent which hinges on considering something to be child pornography only if it implicates actual children, it does not appear that these dolls technically qualify as child pornography.

Contact Our Florida Criminal Defense Attorneys If You Have Any Questions

If you have been unfairly charged with a sex crime, contact our experienced Orlando criminal attorneys at the Baez Law Firm today to find out how we can best protect your rights.

Resource:

thehill.com/homenews/state-watch/445592-florida-bans-childlike-sex-dolls

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