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United States v. Stevens

United States Supreme Court
130 S.Ct. 1577 (2010)


Facts

Partially in response to the growing prevalence of dog fighting and animal torture videos called “crush” videos, Congress enacted 18 U.S.C. § 48, which criminalized the creation, sale, or possession of certain depictions of animal cruelty. The law defined a depiction of “animal cruelty” as one in which a living animal is intentionally maimed, mutilated, tortured, wounded, or killed. The statute did not address the underlying acts harmful to animals. Utilizing the statute, the federal government brought suit against Robert Stevens (defendant), who owned a business that sold videos of pit bulls engaging in dogfights and attacking other animals. Stevens filed a motion to dismiss the indictment, arguing that § 48 violated the First Amendment. The district court denied the motion and held that the depictions were likened to obscenity or child pornography and thus were not protected by the First Amendment. A jury convicted Stevens and sentenced him to three concurrent sentences of 37 months in prison. The court of appeals, sitting en banc, reversed and declared § 48 unconstitutional and vacated Stevens’ conviction. The U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari to review.

Rule of Law

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Issue

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Holding and Reasoning (Roberts, C.J.)

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Dissent (Alito, J.)

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