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Exposing a child to harmful material is a felony in Wisconsin.  Contact our top defense attorneys for help: (414) 270-0202

Exposing a child to harmful material is a Class I felony in Wisconsin.  That means this charge carries with it a maximum penalty of 3.5 years prison.  That prison time breaks down into 1.5 years initial confinement and 2 years extended supervision.  Although this is on the mitigated end of the felony range, this is a serious charge that could carry with it lifelong consequences.

At Meyer Van Severen, S.C. our criminal defense attorneys aggressively fight all criminal charges throughout the state.  We regularly represent individuals facing sexual assault charges and charges involving children.  Both of those types of representation are important to consider while fighting exposing a child to harmful material cases.

Finally, our criminal defense attorneys are specialists.  We’re experts. Representing individuals facing criminal charges is all we do.  If you’re seeking representation from a respected, well-known criminal defense lawyer, contact us immediately at (414) 270-0202.

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What is exposing a child to harmful material?

Section 948.11(2)(a) of the Wisconsin Statutes prohibits this offense.  The law says:

(a) Whoever, with knowledge of the character and content of the material, sells, rents, exhibits, plays, distributes, or loans to a child any harmful material, with or without monetary consideration, is guilty of a Class I felony if any of the following applies:
1. The person knows or reasonably should know that the child has not attained the age of 18 years.
2. The person has face-to-face contact with the child before or during the sale, rental, exhibit, playing, distribution, or loan.
Interestingly, an affirmative defense applies based upon the defendant’s mistake regarding the victim’s age.  The reason this is interesting is simple: most sex crimes involving children make it clear that a mistake regarding the victim’s age isn’t a defense.  So in this case, if the victim showed the defendant an identification showing the age of 18 years old, no crime occurred.  The affirmative defense only applies when the victim shows defendant a driver license, draft card, birth certificate, or other official document.

What are the elements of this crime?

All criminal offenses in Wisconsin have certain elements that the government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt.  An element is a part of the offense.  Wisconsin Criminal Jury Instruction 2142 provides the elements of exposing a child to harmful material:

  • Firstly, the defendant knowingly sold, rented, exhibited, played, distributed, or loaned harmful material to the child; and
  • Secondly, the defendant had knowledge of the character and content of the material.  This requires the defendant knew that the material contains a description, narrative account, or representation of nudity, sexually explicit conduct, sexual excitement, sadomasochistic abuse, physical torture, or brutality; and
  • Thirdly, the child was under the age of 18 years; and
  • Finally, the defendant knew or reasonably should have known the child was under 18 years, or had face-to-face contact with the child before or during the exchange.

Harmful material means the material  shows a person or portion of the human body that depicts nudity, sexually explicit conduct, sadomasochistic abuse, physical torture, or brutality, and that is harmful to children.

Harmful to children means material as previously described, that:

  • Predominantly appears to the prurient, shameful or morbid interest of children; and
  • Is patently offensive to prevailing standards in the adult community of Wisconsin as a whole with respect to what is suitable material for children; and
  • Lacks serious literary, artistic, political, scientific, or educational value for children of the age of the victim, when taken as a whole.

What are some examples of this offense?

Sometimes the statutes describing criminal offenses are confusing.  Usually the criminal jury instructions help to clarify things, but in the case of this offense things might still be confusing.

Certainly the most simple explanation focuses on pornography.  Let’s assume the defendant was 21 years old and the victim was 17 year old.  The defendant had a pornography magazine and the 17 year old wanted to purchase it.  Finally, the defendant knew the pornography magazine included sexually explicit conduct and that the purchaser was 17.  This example certainly satisfies all the elements of the offense and could lead to criminal charges for the defendant.

But what if the 17 year old had a fake identification and showed it to the defendant?  This is the affirmative defense described in section 948.11(c) of the Wisconsin Statutes.  If the defendant knew the victim was under 18, this doesn’t apply.  But if the defendant simply met the victim for the purchase of the pornography, and the victim showed a proper identification (although fake), the defendant isn’t criminally liable.

Exposing a child to harmful pornographic magazines
Exposing a child to harmful material is a felony offense in Wisconsin. Contact our criminal defense attorneys at (414) 270-0202 for help.

How do we defend these cases?

Obviously we’ll begin with the affirmative defense.  If we can prove the victim showed you a fake ID, and you believed it, you’re off the hook.  Unfortunately, proving this isn’t always easy.  It’s obviously illegal for the minor to possess the fake ID – so he’s not going to admit to using it.

This brings us to another important point – credibility. How can we prove that the alleged victim is a liar?  Sometimes we’ll use an investigator to get into old accusations this victim made.  Were there old sexual assault allegations made by the victim?  These could be useful, because this harmful content certainly touches allegations involving sex crimes.

Finally, we’ll look into all other available pre-trial motions.  We might challenge a search warrant.  Perhaps the police stopped you while in your vehicle, and that stop led to the investigation.  Sometimes the defendant gives a statement that harms his case.  We’ll analyze all potential motions and figure out which is best to help win your criminal case.  (And remember, don’t speak with police without one of our criminal defense attorneys present.)

Contact Meyer Van Severen, S.C. immediately to begin fighting your criminal case

The sex crime defense attorneys at Meyer Van Severen, S.C. are specialists.  100% of our practice focuses on representing individuals facing criminal charges.  We regularly represent individuals facing charges like exposing a child to harmful material.  Our exceptional focus on criminal defense allows us to stay constantly up to date on the law.  And most importantly, it allows us to achieve better results for you.

To speak with one of our criminal defense attorneys, contact Meyer Van Severen, S.C. at (414) 270-0202.  We’re certainly available around the clock and want to begin fighting your case.