FREEDMAN V. MARYLAND, 380 U. S. 51 (1965)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Freedman v. Maryland, 380 U.S. 51 (1965)

Freedman v. Maryland

No. 69

Argued November 19, 1964

Decided March 1, 1965

380 U.S. 51


Appellant was convicted of exhibiting a motion picture without submitting it to the Maryland State Board of Censors for prior approval, despite his contention that the motion picture censorship statute unconstitutionally impaired freedom of expression. The Maryland Court of Appeals affirmed.


1. Where motion pictures are concerned, a requirement of prior submission to a censorship board is not necessarily unconstitutional. Times Film Corp. v. City of Chicago, 365 U. S. 43. Pp. 380 U. S. 53-54.

2. One can challenge a licensing statute which endangers freedom of expression whether or not his conduct could be prohibited by a properly drawn statute and whether or not he applied for a license. P. 380 U. S. 56.

3. There is a heavy presumption against the constitutional validity of prior restraints of expression. Bantam Books, Inc. v. Sullivan, 372 U. S. 58, 370 U. S. 70. P. 380 U. S. 57.

4. A noncriminal process requiring prior submission of a film to a censor avoids constitutional invalidity only with procedural safeguards designed to eliminate the dangers of censorship. Pp. 380 U. S. 58-60.

(a) The censor must have the burden of proving that the film is expression unprotected by the Constitution. P. 380 U. S. 58.

(b) Any restraint prior to judicial review must be limited to preservation of the status quo and for the shortest period compatible with sound judicial procedure. Pp. 380 U. S. 58-59.

(c) A prompt final judicial determination of obscenity must be assured. P. 380 U. S. 59.

5. The absence in the Maryland procedure of adequate safeguards against undue inhibition of protected expression renders the statutory requirement of prior submission to censorship an invalid previous restraint. Pp. 380 U. S. 59-60.

233 Md. 498,197 A. 2d 232, reversed.

Page 380 U. S. 52

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