When a California school teacher turned in his school supplied laptop for annual inventory, he never expected to be arrested for possessing pornography. After all, he was an adult and the images he possessed on his computer did not involve minors.

However, because the pornographic images and videos were saved on a government-owned laptop, they were deemed by the court to be obscene, making his possession of adult porn a crime under California Penal Code Section 311.

Definition of Obscene Matter (California Penal Code Section 311)

Viewing adult pornography on a shared computer.
If you are using a shared computer, it may be illegal to view any type of pornography.

Investigators confiscated the teacher’s laptop and other electronic devices in his home after being notified the teacher possessed child pornography, which is illegal in California and under federal guidelines. However, after more than a year, the teacher and his criminal defense attorney were able to show that while there were thumbnails of child pornographic material stored in the laptop’s cache, those images were not viewable and had no identifying data as to where they came from or when they were stored in the cache. Child pornography charges were dismissed.

However, the teacher was accused of, and plead no contest to, possession of obscene matter, which is loosely defined in California Penal Code Section 311 as “matter, taken as a whole, that to the average person, applying contemporary statewide standards, appeals to the prurient interest….depicts or describes sexual conduct in a patently offensive way, and that…lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.” 1 Simplified, the law says that matter that is more than nudity, and is clearly offensive by community standards, and arouses an unwholesome sexual interest or desire is illegal to create, possess, distribute or solicit. 2

Possession of Obscene Matter (California Penal Code Section 311.5)

Under California Penal Code Section 311.5, any person who “writes, creates, or solicits the publication or distribution of advertising or other promotional material, or who in any manner promotes, the sale, distribution, or exhibition of matter represented or held out by him to be obscene, is guilty of a misdemeanor.” 3

Penalties and Punishment for Possession of Obscene Matter (California Penal Code Section 311.9)

The penalties and punishment for possessing obscene matter in California are defined in California Penal Code Section 311.9. Under this law, if you are convicted of possession of obscene matter, you face up to six months in county jail and a fine of up to $10,000.

Accused of Possession of Obscene Matter? Wallin & Klarich Can Help

Wallin & Klarich attorneys
The attorneys at Wallin & Klarich will fight to protect your freedom.

If you or someone you care about has been accused of possessing, distributing, or soliciting obscene matter, contact our experienced criminal defense attorneys at Wallin & Klarich today. Though a first-time offense is a misdemeanor, the punishments and penalties can include hefty fines and lengthy jail terms.

With over 30 years of experience, our attorneys at Wallin & Klarich have the skills and knowledge necessary to successfully defend you against charges of possessing or distributing obscene matter. We are committed to providing you with the personal attention you deserve and expect to help you overcome this difficult situation.

With offices in Los Angeles, Sherman Oaks, Torrance, Tustin, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, West Covina and Victorville, our attorneys at Wallin & Klarich are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to provide you with the very best legal representation. We will employ every available strategy to help you get the best result possible in your case.

Call us today at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 for a free telephone consultation. We will get through this together.


1. [http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes_displaySection.xhtml?lawCode=PEN&sectionNum=311.]
2. [http://research.lawyers.com/glossary/prurient.html ]
3. [http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes_displaySection.xhtml?lawCode=PEN&sectionNum=311.5.]

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