Clear and Present Danger

Definition - What does Clear and Present Danger mean?

The First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of speech does not protect speech that creates a clear and present danger to the public or government.

The clear and present danger test is applied to exempt inherently dangerous speech, such as screaming “Fire!” in a crowded theater, from First Amendment protections.

The clear and present danger test was first articulated by the famous American Supreme Court Justice, Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.

Justipedia explains Clear and Present Danger

The development of the clear and present danger standard in free speech cases reflected a need to balance First Amendment protections against language that created threats to the public or the government.

The clear and present danger standard emerged from a case, Schenck v. United States, where a man was convicted for mailing anti-draft pamphlets urging draft-age men to resist participation in World War I. These pamphlets were deemed to create a clear and present danger to the American government and, therefore, could not be afforded First Amendment protection.

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