Miller v. California
413 U.S. 15 (1973)

  • Miller was mailing catalogs of pornographic magazines to people. He was arrested and charged with distributing obscene material under California law.
  • The Trial Court found Miller guilty. He appealed.
  • The Appellate Court upheld the sentence. Miller appealed.
  • The US Supreme Court reversed.
    • The US Supreme Court found that States have a legitimate interest in prohibiting dissemination of exhibition of obscene materials when the mode of dissemination carries a danger of offending unwilling recipients or exposure to children.
    • The Court found that in order to be considered obscene, there is a three part test:
      • Whether “the average person applying contemporary community standards” would find the work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest.
      • Whether the work depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by applicable State law.
      • Whether the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.
        • That’s more restrictive than the previous standard of “utterly without redeeming social value” the Court used in Memoirs v. Massachusetts (383 U.S. 413 (1966)).
  • This case defined the modern standard for how to determine if something is obscene.