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Miller v. California, 413 US 15 (1973)

That the distribution of obscene material through the mail is not protected by the First Amendment.

The Court also held that both state and federal obscenity standards in use at the time of the case were vague and overbroad. While the Court upheld Miller's conviction, it also invalidated the "community standards" tests and the Court's own test, established in Roth v. US, 354 US 476 (1957) and replaced them with a three-prong test (called the Miller Test) designed to result in more consistency and less subjectivity in judging allegedly obscene materials.

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14y ago
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14y ago

Miller v. California, 413 US 15 (1973)

Marvin Miller owned a small, 60-employee publishing company that printed and distributed hard-core pornographic booklets in Los Angeles, California, in violation of both State and federal obscenity laws.

Sometime in 1967, Miller's company inadvertently mailed five sexually explicit booklets to a restaurant. The owners complained to police, resulting in misdemeanor charges against the publisher for violations of California Penal Code 311 and 311.2(a), distributing obscene material.

CPC 311.2(a)

"(a) Every person who knowingly sends or causes to be sent,

or brings or causes to be brought, into this state for sale or

distribution, or in this state possesses, prepares, publishes,

produces, or prints, with intent to distribute or to exhibit to

others, or who offers to distribute, distributes, or exhibits to

others, any obscene matter is for a first offense, guilty of a

misdemeanor. If the person has previously been convicted of any

violation of this section, the court may, in addition to the

punishment authorized in Section 311.9, impose a fine not exceeding

fifty thousand dollars ($50,000)."

The case was heard in Judge James Harvey Brown's courtroom in Los Angeles County Municipal Court later in 1967 or in early 1968, and resulted in Miller's conviction. Unfortunately, municipal courts are not courts of record, so few details are available.

In 1968, Miller filed an appeal with the Appellate Division of the Orange County Superior court. That court upheld the lower court decision.

Miller arrived at the US Supreme Court on Appeal from the Appellate Department, Superior Court of California, County of Orange, in late 1971. The court had difficulty deciding the case and had it re-argued again during the Fall 1972 session and the final decision was not issued until 1973. In the 1973 decision, the court ruled that "obscene material is not protected by the First Amendment." It then went on to establish what is now known as the "Miller Standard" for determining if material was obscene and thus could be subject to state regulation:

1) whether the average person, applying community standards, would find that the work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interests

2) whether the work depicts or describes in a patently offensive way, sexual or excretory functions specifically defined by the local state law

3) whether the work, taken as a whole, lacked serious literary, artistic, scientific, or political value.

If all three of these conditions applied, the work could be subject to state regulation.

By a 5-4 vote, the court vacated the earlier decision and sent it back to the lower court to have it re-decided consistent with the 3 conditions listed above.

The decision incorporated local community standards into the definition of obscene. What was obscene in one community might not be considered obscene in another if the community standards were different.

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13y ago

The decision in Miller v. Texas, 153 US 535 (1894) was that Miller's constitutional claims could not be heard because he'd failed to raise them at trial first; therefore, there was no federal question on appeal. The case was dismissed for lack of a federal question.

The Supreme Court declined to grant the State's motion to dismiss on technical grounds (a clerk had signed the writ of error instead of the judge) because that matter could have been remedied and wasn't fatal to the case.

In the substantive part of the decision, the Court held the plaintiff in error (Miller) had failed to raise federal question(s) during the course of his state trial or before judgment was issued, but attempted to introduce them for first time when the case was appealed. As a result, the federal question was not properly presented by the record, and could not be addressed for the first time by the Supreme Court, pursuant to Rev. Stat. § 709. This statute had been upheld by precedents set in Texas Pacific Railway v. Southern Pacific Co., 137 U. S. 48 (1890) and Caldwell v. Texas, 137 U. S. 692 (1891).

While the Court recited the constitutional issues in Miller's appeal involving claims of Due Process and Second Amendment constitutional infringements, it did not officially rule on his complaint. In the justices' opinion, Miller had not been deprived of due process nor had the Texas weapons statute violated his Fourteenth Amendment privileges and immunities. These comments should be considered obiter dictum (incidental, not bearing on the decision), however, because the case was dismissed and therefore no judgment on the issues was rendered.

To read the full opinion of this case, see Related Links, below.

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14y ago

5-4 ruling that held obscenity was not protected by the 1st amendment

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8y ago

the court rejected the individual right to bear arms argument

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10y ago

state's rights

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Q: What did the US Supreme Court decide in Miller v. California?
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In the 1973 US Supreme Court case Miller v. California what is Miller's first name?

Miller v. California, 413 US 15 (1973)Marvin Miller

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