Stanley v. Georgia Case Brief

Why is the case important?

The Petitioner, Stanley’s (Petitioner) home was being searched for evidence of bookmaking when officers found obscene films.

Facts of the case

Law enforcement officers, under the authority of a warrant, searched Stanley’s home pursuant to an investigation of his alleged bookmaking activities. During the search, the officers found three reels of eight-millimeter film. The officers viewed the films, concluded they were obscene, and seized them. Stanley was then tried and convicted under a Georgia law prohibiting the possession of obscene materials.

Question

Does this law prohibiting possession of obscenity violate the First Amendment of the Constitution?

Answer

Yes. The Constitution prohibits making mere possession a crime.

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.

  • Case Brief: 1969
  • Appellant: Stanley
  • Appellee: Georgia
  • Decided by: Warren Court

Citation: 394 US 557 (1969)
Argued: Jan 14 – 15, 1969
Decided: Apr 7, 1969