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Florida Teacher Arrested for Showing Porn to Students in Class

A Polk County teacher was arrested this month for showing pornography to students in his classroom. My review of the facts indicates that as is typical in many criminal matters, there are potential defenses available to the teacher that potentially could absolve him, or at a minimum, mitigate the severity of the charges he faces.

The Arrest Affidavit states that one of the teacher’s students came to his desk during class with a question about her assignment. As she approached, the teacher laid his iPhone on his desk, face up. The student observed “multiple websites depicting adult male pornography” on the phone. After speaking with the teacher, the student returned to her seat. Shocked at what she had just seen, the student returned to the teacher’s desk where she surreptitiously recorded the images displayed on the teacher’s iPhone screen, which included a slide show depicting a nude male’s erect penis and two male subjects engaged in sexual intercourse. Three additional students reported having also seen adult pornography on the teacher’s phone.

The teacher wisely declined to be interviewed by the police, invoking both his right to remain silent and to his right to counsel. A forensic examination of the teacher’s iPhone revealed he had visited a gay porn site 382 times within a two week period and that on some occasions he had done so during school hours.

The teacher was arrested for “knowingly show[ing] obscene material to a minor by leaving his iPhone face up with images and/or videos of pornography being displayed” in violation of Florida Statute section 847.0133. The relevant part of that section provides it is a third degree felony, punishable by up to 5 years in prison, for anyone knowingly to “show” any obscene material to a minor.

Undoubtedly, the teacher exhibited extremely poor judgment in viewing and possessing pornography around his students. However, a good argument can be made that his conduct did not constitute a violation of section 847.0133.

To be guilty of violating section 847.0133, the State must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the teacher knowingly showed the pornography on his phone to his students. For purposes of section 847.0133, “knowingly” means having knowledge of, or reason to know both the character and content of the obscene material and the age of the minor. Since the teacher most certainly knew both the character and content of the images on his phone (as evidenced by his obsessive viewing of it over the preceding two week period) and the age of the students, the State will be able to prove this element of the offense.

The more difficult aspect of this case for the State to prove, however, is that the teacher “showed” the pornography to his students. The word “show” is not defined in section 847.0133. An experienced criminal defense lawyer knows when words are not defined in a statute, they are accorded their ordinary meanings. The word “show” typically connotes some affirmative act intended to display or present the material to another. The Arrest and Booking report merely states the teacher laid his phone face up on the desk as the student approached his desk and that the student observed pornographic images on the phone. That act alone doesn’t necessarily indicate the teacher intended to display the images to the students. In fact, it seems to indicate the teacher put the phone down as the student approached in an attempt to prevent the images from being viewed. Determining precisely where on the desk the teacher placed the phone (e.g., closer or further away from the student) and whether the teacher attempted to close the screen prior to placing the phone on his desk could provide additional facts supporting the argument the students saw the images on their teacher’s phone through inadvertence instead of an affirmative act. That distinction could determine whether the teacher’s career and life in general is severely negatively impacted by a felony conviction.

If you or a loved one have been accused of a crime involving pornography, contact a competent Jacksonville criminal defense lawyer thoroughly to analyze your case. Doing so very well could make the difference in whether those allegations have life-long consequences.

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