Public display of offensive sexual material: NY Penal Law § 245.11

by ECL Writer
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Displaying sexually explicit content in a store window, rack, showcase, wall, door, or any other area where it is visible to the general public is illegal in New York. According to New York Penal Law 245.03, you could be charged with public display of offensive sexual material if you allow material to be displayed in a way that is visible to the public and that contains images of nudity, sexual activity, sadomasochistic abuse, or genitalia that are predominantly depicted on the human body.


Coffee Shop B has a bulletin board near its entrance with a collection of explicit, offensive, and graphic cartoons that include nudity, explicit language, and offensive imagery. These cartoons are in plain view of customers as they wait in line to place their orders. The coffee shop owner or manager could potentially face legal issues for public display of offensive material.


A class A misdemeanor is the public display of objectionable sexual content. As a result, if you are found guilty, you could receive a penalty that includes up to one year in jail, three years of probation, and a fine.


You would not be guilty of public display of offensive material if it is displayed openly in a business that restricts admittance to adults only and takes measures to ensure it is not visible to the public from outside the establishment. This defense asserts that the content is made available only to consenting adults who have knowingly chosen to enter the premises, thereby avoiding exposure to potentially offensive material by individuals who may find it objectionable.

New York Penal Law § 245.11: Public display of offensive sexual material

A person commits the offense of public display of offensive sexual material when, possessing awareness of its character and content, they exhibit or authorize the exhibition of such material on or within any window, display case, newsstand, shelving unit, wall, door, billboard, display board, viewing screen, motion picture screen, marquee, or comparable location. This display is done in a manner that renders it easily observable from or within any of the following: a public street, sidewalk, or thoroughfare; a transportation facility; or any site accessible to the general public without requiring a fee or other stipulation for entry, such as a minimum age requirement. This includes, but is not limited to, educational institutions, entertainment venues, parks, and playgrounds, while excluding areas intended for actual habitation. The material in question primarily features explicit depictions of individuals or specific portions of the human anatomy, and its dominant characteristic is the tendency to appeal to a prurient interest in sexual matters and:

  • depicts nudity, or actual or simulated sexual conduct or sado-masochistic abuse; or
  • depicts or appears to depict nudity, or actual or simulated sexual conduct or sado-masochistic abuse, with the area of the male or female subject’s unclothed or apparently unclothed genitals, pubic area or buttocks, or of the female subject’s unclothed or apparently unclothed breast, obscured by a covering or mark placed or printed on or in front of the material displayed, or obscured or altered in any other manner.

Hiring A New York Lawyer For Public display of offensive sexual material Case

When facing legal charges related to the public display of offensive sexual material in New York, securing the services of a seasoned lawyer is crucial. New York’s laws on obscenity and public display are intricate, necessitating a knowledgeable attorney to navigate the complexities of the case. A skilled New York lawyer will provide a rigorous defense, examining factors such as knowledge of the material’s content, display location, and its appeal to prurient interests. They will craft a strategic defense, aiming to demonstrate that the display didn’t meet the legal criteria for offensiveness or that there were procedural errors in your arrest. Their expertise can be pivotal in safeguarding your rights and ensuring the most favorable outcome.

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