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Md. Ann. Code art. 66a, § 2 (1957) is unconstitutional. It fails to provide adequate safeguards against undue inhibition of protected expression, and thus the requirement of prior submission of films to the censorship board is an invalid previous restraint on the constitutional freedom of speech.
Freedman sought to challenge the constitutionality of the Maryland motion picture censorship statute, Md. Ann. Code, 1957, Art. 66A, and exhibited the film "Revenge at Daybreak" at his Baltimore theatre without first submitting the picture to the State Board of Censors as required by § 2 thereof. The State concedes that the picture does not violate the statutory standards and would have received a license if properly submitted, but the appellant was convicted of a § 2 violation despite his contention that the statute in its entirety unconstitutionally impaired freedom of expression. The Court of Appeals of Maryland affirmed.
Did Md. Ann. Code, 1957, Art. 66A unconstitutionally impair freedom of expression?
The Court held that Freedman’s refusal to submit the film to the Board in violation only of § 2 did not restrict Freedman to an attack on that section alone. The Court found validity in Freedman’s contention that § 2 effected an invalid prior restraint on the freedom of speech because the structure of the other provisions of the statute contributed to the infirmity of § 2, and that he did not assert that the other provisions were independently invalid. The Court found that the statute lacked sufficient safeguards against undue inhibition of protected expression, and that rendered the § 2 requirement of prior submission of films to the Board an invalid previous restraint in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment.