Miller v. California, 413 U.S. 15 (1973)
Was an important United States Supreme Court case involving what constitutes unprotected obscenity for First Amendment purposes. The decision reiterated that obscenity was not protected by the First Amendment and established the Miller test for determining what constituted obscene material.
The question that the court had to decide was of whether the sale and distribution of obscene material was protected under the First Amendment's freedom of speech guaranteed. The Court ruled that it was not. It indicated that "obscene material is not protected by the First Amendment", thereby reaffirming part of Roth.
However, the Court acknowledged "the inherent dangers of undertaking to regulate any form of expression," and said that "State statutes designed to regulate obscene materials must be carefully limited." The Court, in an attempt to set such limits devised a set of three criteria which must be met in order for a work to be legitimately subject to state regulation:
1. whether the average person, applying contemporary community standards (not national standards, as some prior tests required), 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 or excretory functions specifically defined by applicable state law; and
3. "whether the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value."
This obscenity test overturns the definition of obscenity set out in the Memoirs decision, which held that "all ideas having even the slightest redeeming social importance … have the full protection of the guaranties [of the First Amendment]" and that obscenity was that which was "utterly without redeeming social importance."
The Miller decision vacated the judgment of the Appellate Department of the Superior Court of California and remanded the case to that court for further proceedings consistent with the First Amendment standards established by the opinion.