SUV Porn Prompts Dissemination of Obscenity Charges

July 7, 2008 - 8:20 PM

(CNSNews.com) - Four North Carolina men face up to six months in prison for allegedly distributing a pornographic movie that was visible from the video screen of a sport utility vehicle while cruising through town on a Saturday night.

The men, whose ages range from 17 to 21, were stopped Aug. 10 and arrested by High Point, N.C., police after an officer saw the movie playing through the back of the Lincoln Navigator, according to police Lt. Jim Tate.

The rear hatch of the vehicle was open, Tate said, which allowed the officer to see the movie on one of the vehicle's video screens while it rolled through town.

The men were charged with intentional dissemination of obscenity, a felony that carries a prison term of four to six months. Authorities said the four were released from jail after posting $1,000 bond early Sunday morning.

The tape was seized as evidence, Tate said, but he declined to release the name of the movie or discuss its contents.

Despite privacy questions that have been raised in the arrest, Tate said the police department stands behind the action. "That's an issue for the courts to decide," he said.

The issue of charging someone with distributing obscene material by virtue of a video screen in a moving vehicle was a new one for Louisiana State University law professor John Baker, an expert on privacy law.

Baker said judges have punished people for taking part in sex acts in vehicles, but said he was unfamiliar with any case where people were arrested for watching a pornographic movie.

But Baker believes the privacy issue is secondary and that the judge in the case must primarily decide whether the men actually intended to disseminate pornography to the public.

"The normal meaning for 'disseminate' is passing out or broadcasting something," he argued. "In this context, I would say they were not intentionally disseminating. They were viewing it. They were not in any way trying to show it to others."

Baker said he would be surprised if a judge found the men guilty based on the circumstances of the case.

"It [the movie] was seen by a police officer who was looking in their vehicle. He was invading their space," Baker said. "Although it was not a violation of privacy, they were not trying to show it to him; probably quite the contrary."

None of the four men was available for comment, nor was the attorney they have hired, Richard Tate, who is not related to police Lt. Jim Tate.

A hearing before a Guilford County judge is scheduled for Aug. 21, according to the High Point Enterprise.

E-mail a news tip to Robert Bluey.

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