Stanley v. Georgia
394 U.S. 557 (1969)

Annotate this Case

U.S. Supreme Court

Stanley v. Georgia, 394 U.S. 557 (1969)

Stanley v. Georgia

No. 293

Argued January 14-15, 1969

Decided April 7, 1969

394 U.S. 557

Syllabus

Under authority of a warrant to search appellant's home for evidence of his alleged bookmaking activities, officers found some films in his bedroom. The films were projected and deemed to be obscene. Appellant was arrested for their possession. He was thereafter indicted, tried, and convicted for "knowingly hav[ing] possession of . . . obscene matter" in violation of a Georgia law. The Georgia Supreme Court affirmed, 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 contends that the Georgia obscenity statute is unconstitutional insofar as it punishes mere private possession of obscene matter. Georgia, relying on Roth v. United States,354 U. S. 476, argues the statute's validity on the ground that "obscenity is not within the area of constitutionally protected speech or press." Id. at 354 U. S. 485.

Held: The First Amendment as made applicable to the States by the Fourteenth prohibits making mere private possession of obscene material a crime. Pp. 394 U. S. 560-568.

(a) Neither Roth, supra, nor subsequent decisions of the Court were made in the context of a statute punishing mere private possession of obscene material, but involved governmental power to prohibit or regulate certain public actions respecting obscene matter. Pp. 394 U. S. 560-564.

(b) The Constitution protects the right to receive information and ideas, regardless of their social worth, and to be generally free from governmental intrusions into one's privacy and control of one's thoughts. Pp. 394 U. S. 564-566.

(c) The State may not prohibit mere possession of obscene matter on the ground that it may lead to antisocial conduct, Roth, supra, distinguished, or proscribe such possession on the ground that it is a necessary incident to a statutory scheme prohibiting distribution, see Smith v. California,361 U. S. 147. Pp. 394 U. S. 566-568.

224 Ga. 259, 161 S.E.2d 309, reversed and remanded.

Page 394 U. S. 558

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