Miller, after conducting a mass mailing campaign to advertise the sale of “adult” material, was convicted of violating a California statute prohibiting the distribution of obscene material. Some unwilling recipients of Miller’s brochures complained to the police, initiating the legal proceedings.
In a 5-to-4 decision, the Court held that obscene materials did not enjoy First Amendment protection. The Court modified the test for obscenity established in Roth v. United States and Memoirs v. Massachusetts, holding that “[t]he basic guidelines for the trier of fact must be: (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.” The Court rejected the “utterly without redeeming social value” test of the Memoirs decision.
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Miller v. California. (n.d.). Oyez. Retrieved February 5, 2023, from https://www.oyez.org/cases/1971/70-73