roth v. united states, 354 U.S. 476 (1957)


The question in this case was whether a federal law prohibiting the sale of obscene materials violated the First Amendment and restricted the freedom of expression.

Roth operated a book business in New York and was convicted of mailing obscene circulars and an obscene book in violation of a federal obscenity statute.

In a 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court held that obscenity was not "within the area of constitutionally protected speech or press." The Court rejected Roth's First Amendment defense, and found that obscene speech is "utterly without redeeming social importance."

The Court established the test for determining obscenity as being "whether to the average person, applying contemporary community standards, the dominant theme of the material taken as a whole appeals to prurient interest."

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