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Miller v. California

Citation. 413 U.S. 15, 93 S.Ct. 2607, 37 L.Ed.29 419 (1973).
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Citation. 413 U.S. 15, 93 S.Ct. 2607, 37 L.Ed.29 419 (1973).

Brief Fact Summary.

Defendant challenged his conviction under California’s obscenity law for mailing pornographic brochures.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

To determine whether a state may regulate the obscene material, a trier of fact must consider: (a) whether the average person, applying contemporary community standards would find that the work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest, (b) whether the work depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by the applicable state law; and (c) whether the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.


This case is one of several “obscenity-pornography” cases reviewed by the Supreme Court. Defendant was convicted under California Penal Code for distributing brochures with pornographic drawings through the mail. Defendant challenged his conviction, arguing the California obscenity law is unconstitutional under the First Amendment.


Whether the proper standards for obscenity were applied.


No. The proper standards for obscenity were not applied.


Justice Douglas

This is a criminal prosecution, and the majority has failed to define with precision what actually constitutes obscenity.

Justice Brennan

The California statute is unconstitutionally overbroad and invalid on its face.


Obscene material is not protected by the First Amendment. This Court has previously recognized that the states have a legitimate interest in prohibiting dissemination or exhibition of obscene material. State power must be limited in this area, however, given the potential for overbreadth and chilled speech.

Under today’s holding, no one will be subject to prosecution for the sale or exposure of obscene material unless these materials depict or describe patently offensive, hard core sexual conduct specifically defined by the regulating state law.

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