Criminal Justice: 320-1
1. List five areas of speech where restrictions on the content of speech do not violate the First Amendment.
2. In general, what is their basis for these permissible restrictions?
The general basis for the permissible restrictions is that the depiction may be of animal cruelty but it is not done for commercial gain. Section 48 of the First Amendment, clearly maps out that in order for a person to be prosecuted on accounts of animal cruelty, he must have knowingly done it for commercial gain (United States v. Stevens, 2010). In addition, the exemptions are made because they involve the retention of individuals’ constitutional rights. According to the law, any statute under the constitution should not inhibit a person’s freedom of expression and this applies to the exemptions made in Section 48 (Brody, Acker & Logan, 2001). For example, many people kill animals as a part of their religious beliefs. Creating a law that generalizes all intentional killing of animals would be demeaning people’s constitutional freedom of religion. In this view, these exemptions are made in order to protect people’s rights.
3. The Court states that the constitutionality of the statute hinges on how broadly the statute is construed. How does this apply to the over-breadth challenge in Stevens?
Stevens argued that Section 48 was over-broad because it did not specifically describe actions that could be termed as animal cruelty. In the first ruling by the District Court, it was decided that the argument could not hold due to the exceptions made in Section 48 (b) (United States v. Stevens, 2010). The law in this case was deemed over-broad because there were no specifications of dog fighting as part of animal cruelty. The basis of the arguments was on previous cases rather than on Section 48. Additionally, by having such an over-broad law, law enforcers would have the opportunity to misuse the law. Animal cruelty was not part of the unprotected parts of speech and thus the court needed to create a new statute that would categorize dog fighting as unprotected. The interpretation of this law would cause problems in cases of animal cruelty hence the decision to retain the over-breadth challenge.
4. What was the government’s argument for the constitutionality of the statute?
The government argued that Section 48 was in accordance to all the rights depicted in the First Amendment. The government argued that exemptions had been made to other cases and it should have been no different in the case against Stevens (United States v. Stevens, 2010). Another argument made by the government is that the material depicted in Stevens’ videos is harmful to the society and should not be protected under the law comparing it to child pornography.
5. What was the holding of the Court? Why did it rule in the manner?
The ruling for this case was delivered on April 20, 2010 whereby the judges said that Section 48 was overbroad dismissing the sentence given by the District Court on Stevens (United States v. Stevens, 2010). They ruled in this manner due to the vagueness of this Section, and to prevent further misuse of the statute. The court also argued that the adding of more exemptions in this statute would derail the meaning of the law in general. The argument presented by Justice Roberts was that, it is better to create laws that are efficient rather than coming up with amendments whenever making a judgment.
6. Do you agree with the outcome of this case? Why or why not?
Yes, I agree with the outcome of this case. This is because; any law that is made should be in accordance to all constitutional rights accorded to persons (Brody, Acker & Logan, 2001). In addition, the law must have specific details that guide the decisions made by the courts. If the correct procedure is not followed, judges may deliver sentences that are over-broad and ineffective. Lawmakers should focus on creating laws that are in direct relation to the crimes they are aimed at reducing.
Brody, D. C., Acker, J. R., & Logan, W. A. (2001). Criminal law. Gaithersburg, MD: Aspen Publishers.
United States v. Robert J. Stevens, 08 U.S. 769 (2010).