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Spencer’s, Layton, Utah come to terms on Vibrators, etc.

LAYTON, Utah — Just in time for holiday shopping, the Spencer’s store at Layton Hills Mall again will be able to offer racy products like vibrators and genitalia-shaped gummy candies now that an agreement has been reached with city and county prosecutors.

Whether the store will stock up immediately on such products is unknown, but the agreement that was reached allows the store to sell the products provided it complies with Utah’s law regarding dealing in material harmful to a minor.

Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings said Spencer’s has made a good-faith agreement to comply with the law, but still faces potential prosecution if it fails to comply.

“We all realized we couldn’t come up with a list of what they can or can’t display to minors due to constitutional prior restraint concerns,” Rawlings said. “So now it’s up to Spencer’s to determine how they’re going to comply.”

Since February, the corporate heads of New Jersey-based Spencers Gifts LLC had been threatened with criminal prosecution in Utah for dealing in harmful material to a minor, a third-degree felony.

That law states no one may distribute or offer to distribute to minors sexual materials with no “serious value” that a majority of the local adult community would find “patently offensive” for minors to see.

Responding to complaints from the public, Layton City and Davis County prosecutors interpreted that law to mean Spencer’s may not sell to minors vibrators and novelty candies in the shape of genitalia, for example, or display them in view of minors.

Layton police executed a search warrant on Feb. 12, shutting down the store for a day and confiscating about 15 boxes of products deemed harmful to minors. Previous to the seizure, police said the items were displayed in view of minors, but they were unaware whether any of those products were sold to minors.

Rawlings said it was unrealistic to review individually the thousands of products Spencer’s sells — or the thousands of future products the store may sell — so a precise list of what was improper for minors was not feasible.

Written guidelines that would be more specific than the law, but not so specific as to contain a precise list of unacceptable items, Rawlings said, could lead to unconstitutional prior restraint issues. Prior restraint is a censorship term referring to a government’s attempt to stop speech before it happens.

“We can’t engage in censorship,” Rawlings said.

“We can simply say ‘you have got to comply with the law, but how you do that is up to you.’ ”

Even under Utah law, the products are legal to sell and display for adults, and that is what necessitates the ambiguity in the agreement, Rawlings said. In past discussions, Rawlings mentioned that the store may be required, for example, to build an adults-only section in the store if they chose to continue selling sexual items. However, no such specific demands are in the agreement, Rawlings said Wednesday.

He nevertheless expects the store will find a legal solution.

“They realize that we were serious about prosecuting on a corporate level,” Rawlings said. “They know that. They’re taking it seriously. They have made some changes and made some commitments. … We’re taking them at their word.”

If their word fails, Rawlings said they may still take Spencer’s to court. The dealing in harmful material law has a statute of limitations extending four years. If Spencer’s violates the law, Rawlings said, his office has ample evidence to seek a conviction.

County attorneys from Utah to Weber counties have promised in the past to hold the company to whatever agreement is negotiated in Davis County.

If residents become concerned that an item in the store violates the law, Rawlings said, those residents should speak first with Spencer’s itself, perhaps by calling the corporate office.

“It’s our belief that if it’s called to their attention, they may very well take it seriously and act without getting law enforcement involved,” he said.

“If they don’t get satisfaction, absolutely contact the Layton Police Department.”

Layton City Attorney Gary Crane said he likes the agreement.

“I thought it came out well. Spencer’s stepped forward and demonstrated they wanted to be a good corporate citizen of the community,” he said. “They made some commitments that I thought were excellent.”

Crane said the city assessed the business for a possible designation as a sexually oriented business, a move that would banish the store to industrial areas of the city. Spencer’s sexually oriented products are less than 20 percent of their overall inventory, Crane said, so the designation could not be applied to the store.

Spencers Gifts LLC general counsel Kevin Mahoney was out of the office and did not return calls.

Spencer Gifts LLC operates approximately 600 stores in malls across the country, according to the Web site. It targets shoppers ages 18 to 25 in particular.

Davis County is not alone in its complaints about the racy items. A Web site registered out of Iowa,, collects news stories from across the country about the sexual products in Spencer’s stores.


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