United States vs. Robert J. Stevens Dog Fighting Thesis

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Court Opinion

United States v. Robert J. Stevens

Appellant was found guilty of violating sec 48 of chapter 3, part 1, Title 18 of the United States Code, which prohibits the interstate or foreign distribution of depictions of animal cruelty and the production of such depictions meant for such distribution, following the purchase of three video depicting dogs engaged in fights and other vicious behavior by law enforcement agents.

The appellant claims that the wording of U.S.C. § 48 is too vague to be constitutionally allowable, as it places a significant abridgment on his First Amendment right to free speech. Specifically, the appellant argues that the statute is overbroad because it reaches individuals who took no part in the underlying conduct (of engaging in and/or encouraging animal cruelty), because it could extend to technical violations of hunting and fishing statutes, and because it is dependent upon state law -- which cannot be incorporated into federal law -- for a definition of both "animal" and "animal cruelty." The United States prosecutors maintain that there is a compelling government interest in suppressing the type of speech that U.S.C. § 48 outlaws, and that the section specifically provides for exceptions where social value exists, and therefore that the law and conviction should be upheld.

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The right to the freedom of speech that has been so fundamental and sacrosanct in the formation and development of this nation has never been considered an absolute right. Limitations have been imposed on these rights by legislative bodies and upheld by this Court in the past, and clear, un-impassioned criteria for exceptions to protected speech have been established. An application of these criteria to the case at hand renders a clear verdict in this case.

Thesis on United States vs. Robert J. Stevens Dog Fighting Assignment

This Court held in New York v. Ferber (1982) that the knowing distribution of materials depicting minors (under the age of sixteen) engaged in sex acts was not protected speech for several specific reasons that can be seen as directly applicable to this case. First, the court determined that the "legislative judgment" regarding the harm to the "physiological, emotional, and mental health" of any child that was the subject of such a depiction was unarguable, and a compelling reason for government suppression of such depictions and the trade therein (FindLaw 2010a).

Appellant has argued that the acts depicted on his videos were legal when and where filmed. His reproduction and distribution of these depictions, however, occurred long after the acts were made illegal, and would cause the same level of harm if the acts were filmed more recently. U.S.C. § 48 also clearly limits the distribution of these materials for the purposes of commerce, and not merely their creation, for different legal and moralistic reasons.

Again, Ferber provides case law that is directly relevant to the case at hand. The Court found that, "the advertising and selling of child pornography provide an economic motive for and are thus an integral part of the production of such materials, an activity illegal throughout the Nation" (FindLaw 2010a). The same truth and intent lies behind U.S.C. § 48.

Appellant's argument that the statute is overboard is also defeated by the focus on commerce… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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