352 U.S. 380 (1957), 16, Butler v. Michigan

Docket NºNo. 16
Citation352 U.S. 380, 77 S.Ct. 524, 1 L.Ed.2d 412
Party NameButler v. Michigan
Case DateFebruary 25, 1957
CourtUnited States Supreme Court

Page 380

352 U.S. 380 (1957)

77 S.Ct. 524, 1 L.Ed.2d 412

Butler

v.

Michigan

No. 16

United States Supreme Court

Feb. 25, 1957

Argued October 16, 1956

APPEAL FROM THE RECORDER'S COURT

OF THE CITY OF DETROIT, MICHIGAN

Syllabus

Section 343 of the Michigan Penal Code, in effect, makes it a misdemeanor to sell or make available to the general reading public any book containing obscene language "tending to the corruption of the moral of youth." For selling to an adult police officer a book which the trial judge found to have such a potential effect on youth, appellant was convicted of a violation of this section.

Held: the statute violates the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, and the conviction is reversed. Pp. 380-384.

Reversed.

FRANKFURTER, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE FRANKFURTER delivered the opinion of the Court.

This appeal from a judgment of conviction entered by the Recorder's Court of the City of Detroit, Michigan,

Page 381

challenges the constitutionality of the following provision, § 343, of the Michigan Penal Code:

Any person who shall import, print, publish, sell, possess with the [77 S.Ct. 525] intent to sell, design, prepare, loan, give away, distribute or offer for sale, any book, magazine, newspaper, writing, pamphlet, ballad, printed paper, print, picture, drawing, photograph, publication or other thing, including any recordings, containing obscene, immoral, lewd or lascivious language, or obscene, immoral, lewd or lascivious prints, pictures, figures or descriptions, tending to incite minors to violent or depraved or immoral acts, manifestly tending to the corruption of the morals of youth, or shall introduce into any family, school or place of education or shall buy, procure, receive or have in his possession, any such book, pamphlet, magazine, newspaper, writing, ballad, printed paper, print, picture, drawing, photograph, publication or other thing, either for the purpose of sale, exhibition, loan or circulation, or with intent to introduce the same into any family, school or place of education, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.

Appellant was charged with its violation for selling to a police officer what the trial judge characterized as

a book containing obscene, immoral, lewd, lascivious language, or descriptions, tending to incite minors to violent or depraved or immoral acts, manifestly tending to the corruption of the morals of youth.

Appellant moved to dismiss the proceeding on the claim that application of § 343 unduly restricted freedom of speech as protected by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment in that the statute (1) prohibited distribution of a book to the general public on the basis of the undesirable influence it may have upon youth; (2) damned a book and

Page 382

proscribed its sale merely because of some isolated passages that appeared objectionable when divorced from the book as a whole; and (3) failed to provide a sufficiently definite standard of guilt. After hearing...

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