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Offensive to recognized standards of decency.

The term obscene is applied to written, verbal, or visual works or conduct that treat sex in an objectionable or lewd or lascivious manner. Although the First Amendment guarantees freedom of expression, such constitutional protection is not extended to obscene works. To determine whether a work is obscene, the trier of fact applies the three-pronged guidelines established by the U.S. Supreme Court in miller v. california, 413 U.S. 15, 93 S. Ct. 2607, 37 L. Ed. 2d 419 (1973):

(a) whether the "average person, applying contemporary community standards" would find that the work depicting or describing sexual conduct when taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest…, (b) whether the work depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by the applicable state law; and (c) whether the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.


Freedom of Speech; Pornography.

West's Encyclopedia of American Law, edition 2. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


adj., adv. a highly subjective reference to material or acts which display or describe sexual activity in an obviously disgusting manner, appealing only to "prurient interest," with no legitimate artistic, literary or scientific purpose. Pictures, writings, film or public acts which are found to be obscene are not protected by the free speech guarantee of the First Amendment. However, "one person's obscenity is another person's art," or "I can't define it, but I know it when I see it." (See: pornography)

Copyright © 1981-2005 by Gerald N. Hill and Kathleen T. Hill. All Right reserved.


Collins Dictionary of Law © W.J. Stewart, 2006
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