Print this Page
Case Basics
Docket No. 
New York
P. J. Video, Inc. et al.
(on behalf of the petitioner)
(on behalf of the respondent)
Location: Network Video
Facts of the Case 

Investigator David Groblewski from the Erie County District Attorney's Office viewed videos rented from P.J. Video and determined their content violated New York obscenity statutes. He drafted an affidavit describing the content on the videos and filed a warrant authorizing their seizure. A village justice in Depew NY issued the warrant and the police seized ten movies suspected to contain obscene content. A local court determined five of the movies violated obscenity standards. P.J. Video argued that the justice issued the warrant without probable cause since he did not personally view the movies. The court agreed and suppressed the videos as evidence. The County Court of Erie County affirmed the decision, and the New York Court of Appeals also affirmed. It asserted that warrants authorizing the seizure of items that were both non- dangerous and mediums of speech needed to satisfy a higher level of proof of "probable-cause" than other types of warrants because of First Amendment concerns.


If a warrant is issued for the seizure of items that can be considered as mediums of speech, does the First Amendment require this warrant to satisfy a "higher" level of proof for probable-cause than warrants issued for other forms of evidence?

Decision: 6 votes for New York, 3 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Amendment 1: Speech, Press, and Assembly

No. Justice William H. Rehnquist delivered the opinion for a 6-3 court. The Court determined that the police department did not discriminate based on content. It seized the videos in order to preserve evidence rather than to suppress speech. In nondiscriminatory cases, the Court held that the same test for preventing Fourth Amendment wrongful search violations also secured against First Amendment free speech violations. Particularly, "the First Amendment should be evaluated under the same probable-cause standard used to review warrant applications." The officers met this standard by describing content in the videos that clearly violated the obscenity statutes.

Cite this Page
NEW YORK v. P. J. VIDEO, INC.. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 26 August 2015. <>.
NEW YORK v. P. J. VIDEO, INC., The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, (last visited August 26, 2015).
"NEW YORK v. P. J. VIDEO, INC.," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed August 26, 2015,