Contemporary Community Standards Law and Legal Definition

The term contemporary community standards is a standard used to test descriptions or depictions of sexual matters, which was first adopted by the United States Supreme Court in 1957 in Roth v. United States, 354 U.S. 476. In the Roth case, the Court put forth its test for determining whether a work is obscene as "whether to the average person, applying contemporary community standards, the dominant theme of the material taken as a whole appeals to prurient interest."

This will normally permit the use of county standards or federal district standards, if a federal case. In fact community standards may be utilized without reference to a precise geographical area.

Jurors are the judges of contemporary community standards, based upon their knowledge of the norms of the community from which they may come. The juror must also decide whether the "average person" in applying such standards would find that the disputed material appeals to "prurient interest" or is "patently offensive." Experts testimony may be used to testify about the nature of the contemporary community standards,' but such testimony is not constitutionally required.