Saia v. New York

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Saia v. People of the State of New York
Seal of the United States Supreme Court.svg
Argued March 30, 1948
Decided June 4, 1948
Full case name Saia v. People of the State of New York
Citations 334 U.S. 558 (more)
New York's law prohibiting the use of sound amplification devices without consent from the chief of police is an unconstitutional prior restraint on speech.
Court membership
Case opinions
Majority Douglas, joined by Black, Murphy, Vinson, Rutledge
Dissent Frankfurter, joined by Reed, Burton
Dissent Jackson
Laws applied
Amendment I

Saia v. New York, 334 U.S. 558 (1948), was a case in which the Supreme Court of the United States held that an ordinance which prohibited the use of sound amplification devices except with permission of the Chief of Police was unconstitutional on its face because it established a previous restraint on the right of free speech in violation of the First Amendment.

Facts of the case[edit]

Saia, a minister of the Jehovah's Witnesses, obtained from the Lockport Chief of Police permission to use sound equipment mounted on his car to amplify lectures on religious subjects. The lectures were given at a fixed place in a public park on designated Sundays. When this permit expired, he applied for another one but was refused on the ground that complaints had been made. Saia nevertheless used his equipment as planned on four occasions, but without a permit.

Prior history[edit]

Saia was tried in Police Court for violations of the ordinance. It was undisputed that he used his equipment to amplify speeches in the park and that they were on religious subjects. Some witnesses testified that they were annoyed by the sound, though not by the content of the addresses; others were not disturbed by either. The court upheld the ordinance against the contention that it violated appellant's rights of freedom of speech, assembly, and worship under the Federal Constitution. Fines and jail sentences were imposed. His convictions were affirmed without opinion by the County Court for Niagara County and by the New York Court of Appeals, 297 N.Y. 659, 76 N.E.2d 323.

Decision of the Court[edit]

Justice Douglas delivered the opinion of the Court.

See also[edit]