United States v. Reidel

PETITIONER: United States
LOCATION: Charlotte-Mecklenburg School District

DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1970-1971)

CITATION: 402 US 351 (1971)
ARGUED: Jan 20, 1971
DECIDED: May 03, 1971

Facts of the case


Media for United States v. Reidel

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - January 20, 1971 in United States v. Reidel

Warren E. Burger:

We'll hear arguments next in number 534, United States against Reidel.

Mr. Solicitor General.

Erwin N. Griswold:

May it please the Court.

The issue in --

I'm looking 397 205 but doesn't seem to be (Inaudible)

Erwin N. Griswold:


Yes, 205.

Byron R. White:

Yes the name is Gable.

Erwin N. Griswold:

Name is Gable against Jenkins.


Erwin N. Griswold:

Gable, I missed.

397 US 592.

Erwin N. Griswold:

I'm told this 397 US 592.

I don't know why.

I just looked at it within the 15 minutes and thought I had carefully verified this citation.

The legal issue in this case is much like that in the preceding case except that the question arises under a different statute.

This is a criminal case.

It comes here on direct appeal from the singe-judge District Court for the Central to California which dismissed the indictment on the ground of the statute under which it was brought is unconstitutional.

The statutory provision here involved is Section 1461 of Title 18 of the United States Code which is set forth on pages 2 and 3 of our brief.

This makes guilty of a crime any person who knowingly uses the mail for sending non mailable matter and that term is defined to include every obscene, lewd, lascivious, indecent, filthy or vile article, matter, thing, device, or substance.

The indictment charges a violation of Section 1461 in three counts.

Although the appendix contains some other material, particularly the text of an affidavit for a search warrant.

I believe that the only matters that are before the Court are these three counts of the indictment, very brief paragraphs and a motion to dismiss.

This motion was filed on the ground that Section 1461 is unconstitutional both on its face and as applied.

The government stipulated that the booklet which was the subject of count three had been ordered by a postal inspector who was an adult and that it had no evidence that the other two booklets had not been solicited by adults.

The court then indicated that this stipulation would be regarded as having been made as an amendment to the indictment in response to a Bill of Particulars to which counsel on both sides concurred and we believe that that brings the situation within this Court's Fruehauf decision in 365 US.

The court then dismissed the indictment, relying on Stanley against Georgia which it interpreted as establishing a right to receive obscene material.

The court found that a necessary consequence of Stanley, that individuals cannot be restricted from distributing obscene material commercially through the mails to adults who solicit such material.

Despite the express disavow in Stanley of any intent to impair the holding in Roth against the United States which sustained a conviction under the very statute involved here.

The court dismissed the indictment as applied in this particular prosecution and this direct appeal followed under the Criminal Appeals Act as it the stood.