United States v. Stevens

Facts of the Case

Congress enacted


Is 18 U.S.C. Section 48, on its face, unconstitutional under the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment?


Yes. The Supreme Court held that 18 U.S.C. § 48 is substantially overbroad, and therefore invalid under the First Amendment. With Chief Justice John G. Roberts writing for the majority, the Court reasoned that depictions of animal cruelty are not categorically unprotected by the First Amendment. The Court further reasoned that because a substantial number of § 48’s applications are unconstitutional, the law is overbroad and, thus, invalid.Justice Samuel A. Alito dissented. He disagreed with the majority opinion arguing that § 48 was not intended to suppress speech, but rather to prevent horrific acts of animal cruelty. He was concerned that the majority holding will practically legalize the sale of such videos and spur the resumption of their production.

Case Information

  • Citation: 559 US 460 (2010)
  • Granted: Apr 20, 2009
  • Argued: Oct 6, 2009
  • Decided Apr 20, 2010