APnv 05/07 2330 Obscenity
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- An Arizona law imposing fines of up to
$1 million for selling certain sexually explicit material has
been upheld by a federal appeals court that rejected arguments
the law is too broad and could chill freedom of expression.
The law seting fines of up to $150,000 for individuals and $1
million for companies selling some sexually explicit material was
upheld on Thursday by a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit
Court of Appeals.
It unanimously affirmed a July 1984 ruling by U.S. District
Judge Charles Hardy upholding the law. The court didn't address
a 1986 amendment changing the maximum prison sentence from 18
months to two years.
The appellate court rejected claims by owners and employees of
several Maricopa County bookstores and video stores that the
law's definitions were too broad and potential fines violated
freedom of expression.
Arizona's obscenity law defines an item as obscene if it
depicts sexual activity in a "patently offensive way," if the
average person using contemporary state standards would find it
appeals to the "prurient interest," and if lacks "serious
literary, artistic, political or scientific value" when taken as
The definition is modeled on U.S. Supreme Court decisions, but
the key term "prurient interest" is not defined in the law.
However, the Arizona Supreme Court, in a 1979 ruling upholding
the law, said to appeal to the prurient interest means "to excite
lustful thoughts, a shameful or morbid interest in sex or nudity,
arouse sexual desires or sexually impure thoughts ..."
The Arizona court's definition interprets the law to "exclude
normal, wholesome, healthy desires from the scope of `prurient
interest,"' said the opinion by Judge Dorothy Nelson. She noted
a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling that said the word "lustful"
could be interpreted as referring to a shameful or morbid
interest in sex.
Citing that definition, the appeals court rejected the store
owners' arguments that the law would allow convictions for
selling items that appealed only to "normal, healthy sexual
Arizona uses legal guidelines that prevent a judge from
imposing a $1 million fine on a "mom and pop" store, Nelson said.
Only one fine has reached $25,000, with most under $7,500, she
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