Miller v. California

"The sale and distribution of obscene materials"

What happened?

Miller sent out 'adult' material in a mass mailing campaign. This was met with outrage by members of the public, who went to the police. They claimed that he violated the stature in California that prohibited the distribution of obscene materials.
Miller v. California


"Is the sale and distribution of obscene materials by mail protected under the First Amendment's freedom of speech guarantee?"
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Precedent Established

The Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision that obscene materials did not enjoy the First Amendment protection.

Miller Test

The test that the Supreme Court uses to determine if speech is obscene. If it is determined that it is, it is not protected by the First Amendment.

(a) whether "the average person, applying contemporary community standards" would find that the work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest, [Roth, supra, at 489,]

(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. If a state obscenity law is thus limited, First Amendment values are adequately protected by ultimate independent appellate review of constitutional claims when necessary.

What This Did

  • Allowed the Court to set community standards.
  • Established the Miller test, that defines the word 'obscene' in terms of the law.


This case has allowed for a very specific definition of the term 'obscene' and how it is interpreted by the law. This is what sets the standards for society now, and will continue to far in the future.


"Miller v. California." Oyez. Chicago-Kent College of Law at Illinois Tech, n.d. Jan 7, 2016. <>