New York v. P. J. Video, Inc.
475 U.S. 868 (1986)

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U.S. Supreme Court

New York v. P. J. Video, Inc., 475 U.S. 868 (1986)

New York v. P. J. Video, Inc.

No. 85-363

Argued March 4, 1986

Decided April 22, 1986

475 U.S. 868

Syllabus

Following an investigation by the Erie County, N.Y. District Attorney's Office, an investigator viewed videocassette movies that had been rented from respondents' store by a member of the County Sheriff's Department. The investigator then executed affidavits summarizing the theme of, and conduct depicted in, each movie. These affidavits were attached to an application for a warrant to search respondents' store, and a New York Supreme Court Justice issued the warrant authorizing the search and the seizure of the movies. The warrant was executed, and the movies were seized. Respondents were charged in a New York Justice Court with violating the New York obscenity statute, and moved to suppress the seized movies on the ground that the warrant was issued without probable cause to believe that the movies were obscene. The Justice Court granted the motion and dismissed the charges, and both the County Court and the New York Court of Appeals affirmed. The Court of Appeals held that there was a "higher" probable cause standard for issuing warrants to seize such things as books and movies than for warrants to seize such things as weapons or drugs, and that, under this "higher" standard, there was insufficient information in the affidavits to permit the issuing justice to believe that the movies in question were obscene under New York law.

Held: No "higher" probable cause standard was required by the First Amendment for issuance of the warrant in question. An application for a warrant authorizing the seizure of materials presumptively protected by the First Amendment should be evaluated under the same probable cause standard used to review warrant applications generally, namely, that there is a "fair probability" that evidence of a crime will be found in the particular place to be searched. Evaluating the supporting affidavits here under this standard, the warrant was supported by probable cause to believe that the movies were obscene under New York law, and they should not have been suppressed. Pp. 475 U. S. 873-878.

65 N.Y.2d 566, 483 N.E.2d 1120, reversed and remanded.

REHNQUIST, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and WHITE, BLACKMUN, POWELL, and O'CONNOR, JJ., joined.

Page 475 U. S. 869

MARSHALL, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BRENNAN and STEVENS, JJ., joined, post, p. 475 U. S. 884.

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