BDSM and the Law
|IANAL ("I Am Not A Lawyer"): The Webmaster is not a lawyer and this section is not offered as legal advice or an attempt to interpret the law. These links are a starting point -- not the final word on legal issues. I do not mean to endorse a site or article by including a resource here. For reliable legal advice, you must talk to a real lawyer.|
The Law as it Relates to BDSM
- The Law, S/M and You by
A. Spencer Bergstedt, Attorney At Law. (legal advice from a real lawyer.)
- BDSMD/s and the Law by
Rumpouleat Gloria Brame's Dominant Ideas website. Another informative article by "a criminal defense lawyer for over twenty years."
- The National Coalition for Sexual Freedom (NCSF) website has a great section for their Law Enforcement Outreach Program
- The Leather Law Depository at the Leather Quest website: What are the laws concerning businesses/clubs/organizations that cater to the BDSM community, on city, county and state levels? How can we operate our businesses/clubs/organizations legally within these laws? What must we do to protect our patrons/members?
- Improving the Legal Standing of Non-Traditional Relationships by
- Muses Legal Guide To Living Together
- The NLA-I Law Project: The National Leather Association is looking for volunteers in a nationwide project to recognize the legal status of BDSM in various localities.
- bdsm_legal_moderated mailing list:
This list is for MODERATED news and essays/posts on the nuts and bolts legal issues of BDSM. This list is not for the mere discussion of opinion, or random complaining, this list is specifically here to provide hard information on case studies, well researched posts on possible defense strategies and ways to protect yourself.
- BDSM-LegalIssues mailing list:
This list is dedicated to legal issues surrounding BDSM as a consentual lifestyle, businesses whose major trade or product caters to people who engage in BDSM, and groups who are looking to discuss legal issues as they endeavor to set up groups/clubs/organizations. This list is primarily geared toward the United States, but certainly opinions from Europe, Australia, Canada, and other areas can add new perspective to issues. Throughout the US, more play space is being developed, more parties are being held, and more people keep getting arrested. This list will encourage open discussion of federal, state and municipal law and how organizations have dealt with law enforcement and government agencies. Appropriate topics may include, but are not restricted to: risk management, constitutional law, personal injury and safety, operational issues, sodomy and prostitution law.
Specific Legal Cases
- Attleboro: Paddleboro Information Web Site
- Attleboro: Assault On Common Sense an editorial in the July 27 - August 3, 2000 issue of the Boston Phoenix : "The Attleboro S&M Bust Is An Outrageous Instance of police misconduct compounded by prosecutorial abuse. In a small sense, the outrageous recent police raid on a sadomasochistic party in Attleboro is evidence of progress: media reports have focused not just on the details of the case, but also on the terrible judgment shown by law-enforcement officials for pressing criminal charges in response to activities engaged in by consenting adults."
- Baltimore: Fit To Be Tied: Local S/M Community Irate Over Regulatory Crackdown
- Jovanovic: Cyber-Sex Conviction Reversed on Appeal by Daniel Wise from the New York Law Journal (December 22, 1999): "A Columbia University graduate student who was sentenced to at least 15 years in prison for kidnapping and sexually abusing a Barnard College student won a reversal of his conviction in a ruling that could sharply curtail New York's Rape Shield Law. An appellate court ordered a new trial for Oliver Jovanovic, finding that the trial court had improperly excluded e-mail messages in which the Barnard student evidenced an interest in sadomasochistic sex and having a sadomasochistic relationship with a man."
- Jovanovic: The People vs. Oliver Jovanovic: the Text of the NY Supreme Court Decision.
- Jovanovic: People v. Jovanovic: The Cybersex Hoax
- Jovanovic: Justice for Oliver Jovanovic
- San Diego Six: Club X October Play Party Legal Defense Fund & Information
- Spanner: Spanner on the Web "the (sort of) official Spanner Web page for SM Rights"
- Spanner: Text of Final Judgement on Spanner Case: Case of several men in Britain who were arrested for consensual sadomasochism.
- Spanner: "Police Free Gay Slaves": Some Juridico-Legal Consequences of the Discursive Distinctions Between the Sexualities by Ben Attias.
- The Age of Consent website.
- Queer Legal Resources
- Sex Laws This is a popular site that occasionally exceeds "its allocated data transfer" and is temporarily closed down by Geocities for an hour. In that case, the mirror site is located at http://pobox.com/~Mark.Gray/laws
- Sexuality, Gender, and the Law: National and International
- Yahoo's Directory of Sexuality / Legal Issues
Interacting with Law Enforcement
- What to do if you're stopped by The Police: A Guide from the ACLU
- Know your rights information from the National Lawyers Guild
- How Police Interrogation Works by Julia Layton
- Confessions: Police Interrogation, Due Process, and Self-Incrimination from FindLaw.com
- Dominance and Submission: How the Police Use Psychological Manipulation to Interrogate Citizens by Dylan Kurz
- Two Videos: "Don't Talk to the Police"
- Don't Talk to the Police by Professor James Duane. 27 min video - May 21, 2008: James Duane explains why innocent people should never talk to the police.
- The Other Side of the Story by Officer George Bruch. 21 min - May 21, 2008: George Bruch from the Virginia Beach police department responds to Professor James Duane's presentation on why innocent people should never talk to the police.
- BUSTED: The Citizen's Guide to Surviving Police Encounters. 45 min - Nov 30, 2006: How to exercise your constitutional rights during encounters with police. (From the FlexYourRights.org/.)
Pertinent Texas Laws, Codes, and Resources
- American Law Sources On-line includes a section on Texas Law
- Texas State Laws at the FindLaw website
- Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commision enforces the Alcoholic Beverage Code. Chapter 104 is for the regulation of retailers. It reads in part "No person authorized to sell beer at retail, nor his agent, servant, or employee, may engage in or permit conduct on the premises of the retailer which is lewd, immoral, or offensive to public decency, ..."
- Texas Penal Code
- Texas Law: a report from the Lambda Legal and Education Fund
- Texas Judiciary Online: "Official Web site offering free access to a range of judicial and court materials and relevant Internet links for the US State of Texas. The Texas Judicial server carries information and documents published about and by state courts, agencies and committees. The site is organised into sections covering: the Texas Appellate Courts; Texas Trial Courts; Judicial Agencies and Groups; Court Rules (including those on Civil Procedure, Appellate Procedure and Evidence); Judicial ethics and open Judicial Records. Online resource materials and publications include: ethical opinions, committee decisions, model forms and the Texas Judicial System Directory. Items are presented in HTML format with selected materials also available as Adobe Acrobat PDF files. Information is made freely available on the Judicial server as a joint project of the Judicial Committee on Information Technology and the Office of Court Administration."
- Texas Legislature Online: "Web pages of the Texas Legislature Online, maintained by the US State of Texas. The site is aimed at both the legal profession and the general user / citizen. Users can search for information on their elected representatives in the Texas House of Representatives or Senate, and e-mail them if they wish. A "frequently asked questions" feature offers guidance on how to follow the status of a Bill through the legislature, how to view the text of a Bill, and how to find out when a public hearing is being held. Users can search for Bills by Bill number, subject, author, committee, keyword, or by advanced searching. In addition, the full text of the Texas Statutes is available, in downloadable ASCII files. The Texas Constitution is available in HTML, as is a Texas Legislative Council Drafting Manual. The site is also available in a text only version. "
- SMU Underwood Law Library Legal Research Guides: "A collection of legal research guides prepared by staff at the Underwood Law Library, Dedman School of Law, Southern Methodist University (SMU) based in Texas, USA. The guides are classified and listed by subject, with coverage of topics such as: Researching Texas law; Researching US Federal law; Court and Arbitration Rules; International law and Foreign law. Guidance on the use of Legal Directories; General interest and Basic research sources is also provided. Each guide identifies relevant materials in print format with some reference links to Internet sites. Sample sources and answers to frequently asked questions are also provided. The materials are made freely available, generally in HTML format or Adobe Acrobat PDF files with limited use of MS Word."
- Municipal Code Corporation maintains lists of municipal codes including the municipal code for San Antonio.
- The Texas Documents Information Network-List: a service of the University of Houston Law Libraries.
- The People's Lawyer website includes a a copy of the Texas "Directive to Physicians and Family or Surrogate" (living will) and a "Medical Power of Attorney for Health Care" as well as instuctions.
- Is It Curtains For Texas' 140-Year-Old Sodomy Statute?: an article by Jonathan David Carroll from the August 11, 2000 issue of the Austin Chronicle. "When Danny Cortese's plane landed in Texas he realized that, for the first time in his life, he could be arrested for being himself. Cortese doesn't steal cars or rob banks, but he is gay, and Section 21.06 of the Texas Penal Code makes homosexual conduct a crime."
- The "Sex Ed" section of the Forbidden Fruit site has an article -- "Texas Law: Why We Don't Sell Dildos" -- which explains why the Austin stores don't sell dildos but they do sell "educational models." The article includes an excerpt from Texas Penal Code Chpt 43 (public indecency), subchapter b: obscenity.
- San Antonio Law Links including "Research Laws & Legislation" from San Antonio Equal Rights Political Caucus for Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, & Transgenders: a not-for-profit organization which has a mission primarily focusing on education and awareness of political issues of importance to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, and people supportive of GLBT issues.
- Unity Foundation: an IRS §501(c)(3) tax-exempt Texas nonprofit corporation serving the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community of San Antonio, Texas
Find a Kink Friendly Lawyer in San Antonio
- your local ACLU Affiliate Office: http://www.aclu.org/affiliates/
- San Antonio Gay and Lesbian Community Center's list of Gay friendly lawyers at http://glccsa.org/. While there's no guareentee that the lawyers on list list are especially qualified or interested in handling a BDSM related case, the indication is they're tolerant and open minded.
- The Kink Aware Professionals List is a national list of Doctors, Lawyers, and Professionals who are knowledgable and friendly toward the scene. If you know of some please notify the list's maintainer and drop us a note as well.
- If the lawyer doesn't have to be kink friendly, you can start with San Antonio Lawyers Referral Services 210-227-1853 and the San Antonio Community Law Ctr. 210-271-9595.
If you're looking for a kink friendly attorney, I'd suggest starting with the following resources
Leftist, Liberal, and Libertarian: Editorials, Opinions, and Arguments
- Attitudes towards Victimless Crimes: A second-source analysis upon the attitude towards victimless crimes. Proseminar work by
Peter KeelStudent of sociology.
- Consenting adults and Sex Laws section from Independent Gay Forum
- Arresting Behavior an article by Stephen H. Miller. "Police stings routinely raid and entrap men engaged in consensual sexual activities on private property; sensational press coverage finishes the job of devastating the arrestees' lives. Law enforcement agencies have no business pursuing indoor activity in private commercial establishments whose owners do not object to it; in other settings, they must at a minimum be prevented from engaging in entrapment and selective enforcement."
- Governor Bush, Sodomy-Law Defender an article by Dale Carpenter: "'Compassionate conservative'? Texas Gov. George W. Bush's public statements in support of criminalizing gay sex haven't been very compassionate. And they're not really conservative, either."
- Ending Sodomy Laws an article by Paul Varnell. "Few civilized nations of the world any longer retain on their books sodomy laws, an anachronistic intrusion into citizens' liberty which linger mostly in ignorant and savage third world backwaters. Yet there is a shocking exception: 20 of the 50 United States still criminalize homosexual (and in many cases heterosexual) relations. In some states these laws have persisted in part because gay activists, unwisely, have not made their repeal a priority. "
- Government's Power to Require "Good Morals" and Adherence to Traditional Values by Paul Kovach and Michael Romanello. While written for the Gay and Lesbian community, it's also relevant for the BDSM scene.
- Sex, Censorship, and the Internet
- Sexuality, Consent, and the Law in the United States by Ben Attias
- Why Sado-Masochism Should Not Be Criminalised by Chris R. Tame: "Legal Notes" from Libertarian.org
- Quotes on Freedom, Liberty, and Security
General Law Resources and References
- APB Online
- Cornell's Legal Information Institute
- Criminal justice links assembled by Cecil Greek at the University of South Florida
- www.cybercrime.gov, from the U.S. Justice Department's Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section (CCIPS), is a Cybercrime website which defines computer crime, instructs how to report it, lists the department's latest thinking on privacy vs. policing on the Internet, and shows how the government searches and seizes computers. The site includes sections on
- Reports, press releases, speech texts and testimony,
Speech Issues in the High-tech Context,
Privacy Issues in the High-tech Context,
Laws against computer crime and press releases on significant hacker cases,
Crimes facilitated by computer use,
The department manual on searching and seizing computers,
Answers to frequently asked questions about encryption,
How to report privacy violations for investigation,
International efforts against computer crime and child pornography, and
Data on law enforcement cooperation against computer crime
- eCrime, Law & You: News stories from the Zdnet site.
- The FindLaw Search Engine at FindLaw.com
- National Criminal Justice Reference Service
- Law News Network
- The Librarians' Index to the Internet: Law
- Martindale-Hubbell's Lawyer Locator
- Nolo.com Self-Help Law Center
- U.S. Supreme Court
- The SOSIG Law Gateway provides guidance and access to global legal information resources on the Internet. The service aims to identify and evaluate legal resource sites offering primary and secondary materials and other items of legal interest. Descriptive records and links are created for legal service sites and specific documents.
- Supreme Court Collection from Cornell University's Legal Information Institute
- Uniform Code of Military Justice
- West's Legal Directory
- WWW Virtual Law Library from the Indiana University School of Law at Bloomington
Copyright and Link Laws
- Privacy: A list of resources on the very important issues of privacy it relates to BDSM.
- Coping with Identity Theft from the Privacy Rights Clearning House site at http://www.privacyrights.org/
Privacy Advocate and Civil Liberty Groups
- American Civil Liberties Union
- Center for Democracy and Technology
- Citizens Internet Empowerment Coalition (CIEC) is "a broad group of Internet users, library groups, publishers, online service providers, and civil liberties groups fighting for the future of the First Amendment and the future of free expression in the Information age." CIEC "came together to oppose Congress' first attempt to regulate content on the Internet, the Communications Decency Act, which the U.S. Supreme Court found unconstitutional on June 26, 1997. This site is being preserved as a resource on the landmark CDA case."
- Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility
- Electronic Frontier Foundation
- Electronic Privacy Information Center
- Fighting Hate Organization: It's mission is to inform, motivate and organize alternative sexual interest communities to respond to threats to their rights in a law-abiding manner. Fighting Hate will maintain a network that gathers information, screens it, disseminates it to the community, and provides the means for an effective response to challenges. It is a not-for-profit, pansexual group staffed by unpaid volunteers. It is a group open to any individual who wants to help protect the rights of American's to express their sexuality. Fighting Hate supports the First Amendment right of every American to freedom of speech, whether we agree with what is said or not. However, Fighting Hate will not release, represent or tolerate hateful or inflammatory statements directed at people because of different religious faiths or political affiliations. It will develop close relationships with other responsible sexual minority groups, and will embrace and actively support their own agendas. It will observe the highest standards of integrity and accuracy as it gathers and disseminates information to the community. It will maintain close ties with the alternative sexual interest communities at large, and will be responsive to input from that quarter.
- Internet Privacy Coalition
- Lambda Legal and Education Fund
- The National Coalition for Sexual Freedom engages in national advocacy on issues related to sexual identity, expression and orientation by participating in the development of public policy and by supporting positive media presentations of diverse sexual practices. NCSF is a voluntary, not-for-profit association that offers a free membership to individuals and organizations who support the rights of adults to engage in safe, sane and consensual sexual expression.
- National Lawyers Guild: "an association dedicated to the need for basic change in the structure of our political and economic system."
- Sexual Freedom Legal Defense and Education Fund, Inc.: People who practice alternative sexual expression can sometimes find themselves in trouble. Like the "Paddleboro" defendants in Massachusetts, they may be charged with crimes under archaic laws. They may face the loss of custody of their children. The Sexual Freedom Legal Defense and Education Fund, Inc. has been established to help people who find themselves in this kind of trouble. Valerie White, the agency's executive director, says the new agency hopes for several responses to this announcement. "We hope people who need financial assistance with legal fees and the expenses of litigation will contact us for help. We hope lawyers and child-development specialists who are willing to work with this population will permit us to put them in a referral database. And we hope people who share our dedication to sexual freedom will help us build our fund." In the first week it was in business, the group received five inquiries. It has already made a grant to help a woman find an expert witness in a child custody case. The agency has applied for 501c3 status as a tax exempt organization. "We want to focus on alternative sexual expression among consenting adults, like polyamory, swinging, BDSM, fetishism and so forth" White says. "GLBT folks already have a great resource in the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund."
Contact the new non-profit at:
Sexual Freedom Legal Defense and Education Fund, Inc.URL: http://www.sfldef.org
156 Massapoag Ave.
Sharon, MA 02067
- The Woodhull Freedom Foundation: Victoria Woodhull was the out-spoken, “racy” activist who introduced sex-positivist values to America during the Victorian era. She believed that both men and women had a right to “free love" without government or public intervention. Throughout the 1870s, she lectured and published, arguing against society’s sexual double standard. Woodhull advocated sexual satisfaction and love for all, legal prostitution, the right to multiple partners, and supported people’s abilities to make their own decisions about consensual sexual activities.
"To those who denounce me, I reply: Yes I am a free lover. I have an inalienable, constitutional and natural right to love whom I may, to love as long or as short a period as I can; to change that love every day if I please." - Victoria Woodhull
Woodhull Freedom FoundationURL: http://www.woodhullfoundation.org/
1312 18th St NW Suite 103
Washington, DC 20036
Information For Law Enforcement
For police and lawyers who are interested in BDSM in a professional capacity.
- Information for Professionals Confronted with Erotic Power Exchange: "Serious background information for people, confronted with erotic power exchange in their profession" from the POWERotics Foundation
- Information for Media: part of BDSM Background Information, a series of articles from the POWERotics Foundation
- EPE and law enforcement 1: part of BDSM Background Information, a series of articles from the POWERotics Foundation
- EPE and law enforcement 2: part of BDSM Background Information, a series of articles from the POWERotics Foundation
- An Open Letter to Law Enforcement by Ambrosio: An open letter to law enforcement from someone in the BDSM community who wants to explain some ways in which BDSM is not domestic violence.
- "Law Enforcement Field Guide to SM" at http://www.ncsfreedom.org/eop/files/fieldguide.pdf from The National Coalition for Sexual Freedom: http://www.ncsfreedom.org/
- BDSM vs. Abuse by Sir Bamm! (This article includes a "Probable Cause or Consensual BDSM" section.)
- About Dawn Perlmutter and her claims about dark "subcultures":
- Dawn Perlmutter's "Dark Subculture" Witch Hunt by Ambrosio
- "Dawn Perlmutter and her Institute for the Research of Organized and Ritual Violence" by Diane Vera: http://www.theisticsatanism.com/asp/people/Perlmutter/
- "Dawn Perlmutter's claims about various "dark" subcultures (Goth, Vampire, Fetish, BDSM, Body Art)" by Diane Vera: http://www.theisticsatanism.com/asp/people/Perlmutter/dark.html
- Sheldon LaGrange's Amazon.com Book Review of Investigating Religious Terrorism and Ritualistic Crimes
- Please also visit Abuse vs. BDSM section of this site.