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Law School Case Brief

Stanley v. Georgia - 394 U.S. 557, 89 S. Ct. 1243 (1969)

Rule:

U.S. Const. amend. I and U.S. Const. amend. XIV prohibit making mere private possession of obscene material a crime. The States retain broad power to regulate obscenity; that power simply does not extend to mere possession by the individual in the privacy of his own home.

Facts:

While searching appellant's home for evidence of bookmaking pursuant to a search warrant, federal and state agents discovered obscene films. Appellant was then convicted of knowingly having possession of obscene matter in violation of Ga. Code 1933, § 26-6301. The state supreme court affirmed the conviction, holding it not essential to an indictment charging one with possession of obscene matter that it be alleged that such possession was with intent to sell, expose or circulate the same. Appellant challenged his conviction, arguing that Ga. Code 1933, § 26-6301 was unconstitutional insofar as it was punishing mere private possession of obscene matter. The State, relying on Roth v. United States, 354 U.S. 476, argued the statute's validity on the ground that obscenity was not within the area of constitutionally protected speech or press.

Issue:

Was Ga. Code 1933, § 26-6301, making it criminal for knowingly having possession of obscene matter, unconstitutional under the First and Fourteenth Amendments?

Answer:

Yes.

Conclusion:

The Court held that while the State had an interest in the sale and distribution of obscene matter, it did not have any interest in appellant's mere possession of obscenity in his own home. The Court found that Ga. Code 1933, § 26-6301 violated U.S. Const. amend. I and U.S. Const. amend. XIV in that it was an attempt to control a person's private thoughts. The Court held that mere possession of obscene materials could not be a crime and, therefore, reversed the judgment and remanded the case.

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