People v. Freeman
|California v. Freeman|
Supreme Court of California
|August 25, 1988|
|California pandering statute did not criminalize the hiring of actors for non-obscene adult films.|
|U.S. Const. amend. I; Cal. Penal Code §§ 266I, 647|
California v. Freeman was a criminal prosecution of Harold Freeman, a producer and director of pornographic films, by the U.S. State of California. Freeman was charged in 1987 with pandering - procurement of persons "for the purpose of prostitution" - under section 266i of the Cal. Penal Code for hiring adult actors, which the prosecution characterized as pimping. The prosecution was part of an attempt by California to shut down the pornographic film industry. The prosecution's characterization was ultimately rejected on appeal by the California Supreme Court. Prior to this decision, pornographic films had often been shot in secret locations.
Freeman was initially convicted, and lost on appeal to the California Court of Appeal. The trial judge, however, thought jail would be an unreasonably harsh penalty for Freeman's conduct, and sentenced him to probation, despite the fact that this was explicitly contrary to the statute. The State appealed this sentence but lost.
Freeman appealed to the California Supreme Court, which subsequently overturned his conviction, finding that the California pandering statute was not intended to cover the hiring of actors who would be engaging in sexually explicit but non-obscene performances. Freeman could only have been lawfully convicted of pandering if he had paid the actors for the purpose of sexually gratifying himself or the actors. The court relied upon the language of the statute for this interpretation, as well as the need to avoid a conflict with the First Amendment right to free speech. The court viewed Freeman's conviction as "a somewhat transparent attempt at an 'end run' around the First Amendment and the state obscenity laws."
The State of California unsuccessfully tried to have this judgment overturned by the United States Supreme Court. Justice Sandra Day O'Connor denied a stay of the California Supreme Court's judgment, finding that its ruling was founded on an adequate and independent basis of state law. The full Court subsequently denied the petition for review.
As a result, the making of hardcore pornography was effectively legalized in California.
- List of United States Supreme Court cases, volume 488
- List of United States Supreme Court cases
- Lists of United States Supreme Court cases by volume
- List of United States Supreme Court cases by the Rehnquist Court
- Cal. Penal Code s266i
- "Offer to tape sex nullifies conviction" by Annmarie Timmins, Concord Monitor, December 5, 2008.
- People v. Freeman, 46 Cal.3d 419 (1988)
- California v. Freeman, 488 U.S. 1311 (1989)
- New Hampshire v. Theriault (2008)