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Law School Case Brief

Lo-Ji Sales v. New York - 442 U.S. 319, 99 S. Ct. 2319 (1979)


The Fourth Amendment does not allow a search warrant for the search and seizure of obscene materials to leave it entirely to the discretion of the officials conducting the search to decide what items are likely to be obscene and to accomplish the seizure of such items; the Fourth Amendment does not countenance open-ended warrants, to be completed, in the sense of specifying items to be seized, the search is being conducted and while items are being seized, or after the seizure of the items has been carried out.


Defendant was charged with three counts of obscenity in the second degree after the New York State Police conducted a search and concluded that the films in his adult bookstore violated New York's obscenity laws.  Defendant entered a plea of guilty but moved to suppress the evidence because the search and seizure extended beyond the areas and items that were not listed in the search warrant. The motion was denied and the appellate court affirmed the convictions.


Does the authority to search the property of the Defendant extend to areas and items that are not particularly listed in the search warrant?




The United States Supreme Court reversed the ruling of the lower courts and held that the search and seizure was invalid as the warrant did not particularly describe the things to be seized and left it entirely to the discretion of officials conducting the search to decide which items were to be seized. There is no basis for the notion that because a retail store invites the public to enter, it consents to wholesale searches and seizures that do not conform to Fourth Amendment guarantees.  The Town Justice viewed the films, not as a customer, but without the payment a member of the public would be required to make.  Similarly, in examining the books and in the manner of viewing the containers in which the films were packaged for sale, he was not seeing them as a customer would ordinarily see them.

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