A state law authorized the seizure of allegedly obscene books. The law did not provide the possessors of these books the right to challenge the determination of obscenity until after the seizure of property. Law enforcement officers obtained an order under this law to seize and impound copies of certain paperback novels from a place of business.
Whether the procedures leading to the seizure of obscene materials was constitutionally sufficient?
No. The line between constitutionally protected material and obscene material is very fine. Procedures for seizing illegal material must not inhibit the lawful possession of other materials.
The Court held that “[S]tate regulation of obscenity must ‘conform to procedures that will ensure against the curtailment of constitutionally protected expression, which is often separated from obscenity only by a dim and uncertain line.’” Bantam Books, Inc., v. Sullivan, 372 U.S. 58 (1963). As the state did not provide the defendant with the opportunity to challenge the determination of obscenity prior to the books’ seizure, the process was unconstitutional.
378 U.S. 205, 84 S. Ct. 1723 (1964)