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A Deep Look at Miller v. California: A Powerful Old Case That Has Implications for Florida Defendants Facing Pornography Charges

If you or someone you love faces Florida computer crime charges, such as receiving or possessing child pornography, a case decided more than 40 years ago – Miller v. California – may be very relevant to your legal situation.

In the Miller decision, the United States Supreme Court redefined obscenity, legally speaking, to mean something that had no “serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.” The court’s standard became known as the Miller Test, named after the defendant, Marvin Miller, a man who had run a mail order pornography shop.

Miller had designed a brochure that had sexually explicit images on it; he then mailed the brochure around to market his business. One copy wound up at a restaurant in Newport Beach, and the owner of that restaurant was so taken aback that he called authorities, who arrested Miller and hit him with charges of sending obscene material in the mail. A jury in Orange County later convicted Miller, who then appealed to Superior Court, arguing that the jury had applied an incorrect standard to determine what he sent was truly obscene.

At the time, the standard for obscenity had been set by a pervious case, Memoirs v. Massachusetts, which defined obscenity as something that was “utterly without redeeming social value.” Although the appellate court affirmed the jury’s ruling, Miller appealed for a certiorari, which the Supreme Court granted because it wanted to reconsider the notion of obscenity.

Warren Burger, the Chief Justice at the time, hoped to open up what could be construed as obscene to help prosecutors crack down on purveyors of prurience. Meanwhile, Justice William Brennan, Jr. wanted to construe obscenity more narrowly, so that it would only apply when, for instance, someone handed out sexually explicit materials to unconsenting adults or minors.

Both Justice Burger and Justice Brennan, Jr. had been dissatisfied with the previous obscenity standards, set by cases such as Memoirs v. Massachusetts and Roth v. United States. At the time, these two cases created a kind of patchwork system that didn’t define obscenity in a consistent and easily understood way.

The Miller standard created a three key rules to determine whether a material should be regulated by states:

1. Would a typical person consider the material appealing in a lewd way?
2. Does the material discuss or show sexual or excretory situations?
3. Does the work have any “serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value”?

Since Miller v. California, hundreds of other cases have been decided that could powerfully influence your defense strategy. If you face Florida cybercrime charges, such as possessing or receiving child pornography or solicitation, call the Seltzer Mayberg, LLC team immediately at 1-888-THE-DEFENSE (888-843-3333) to schedule your completely confidential and free consultation with us.

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