Miller V CA

Argued: Jan. 18, 1972/ Decided: June 21, 1973

Made by Benjamin Chavez


Obscenity: the state or quality of being obscene; obscene behavior, language, or images.

Miller Test: the United States Supreme Court's test for determining whether speech or expression can be labeled as obscene, in which case it is not protected by the first amendment to the United States Constitution and can be prohibited.

Time, place, and manner: a restriction on expression as to being neutral as to content and serves a true purpose in society.

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Basic Facts about the case:

- Marvin Miller conducted mass mailing campaign to advertise sale of "adult" content.

- He was convicted of violating California Statute which prohibits distribution of obscene material.

Constitutional Reference:

First Amendment guarantees freedom of speech but doesn't consider obscene material. Is the distribution of obscene material protected under the First Amendment's freedom of speech guarantee?


The Court ruled that obscene materials did not follow or abide First Amendment protection. The court established a modified test for obscenity (First obscenity test established in Roth v. US and Memoirs v. Massachusetts.)

The obscenity test is as follows:

  1. Whether the average person, applying contemporary community standards would find that the work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest…

  2. Whether the work depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by the applicable law; and

3. Whether the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literacy, artistic, political, or scientific value.

The court rejected the “utterly without redeeming social value” test from the memoirs decision


Historic: The landmark decision of the supreme court in Miller V CA redefined its definition of obscenity from that of "utterly without socially redeeming value" to that which lacks "serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value" and is now referred to the Miller Test.

Current: The case still has a significance today as it is applied to national television where certain material would not be displayed on television as it is displayed as obscene defined by the Miller Test.

Future: With the rise of new technology and more ways to share information, the ruling of the case in Miller V CA still applies in which obscene material that is shared would be prohibited due to it being "obscene" and is not protected by First Amendment guarantee of free speech.