Valentine v. Chrestensen

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Valentine v. Chrestensen
Seal of the United States Supreme Court.svg
Argued March 31, 1942
Decided April 13, 1942
Full case name Valentine, Police Commissioner of the City of New York v. Chrestensen
Citations 316 U.S. 52 (more)
62 S. Ct. 920; 86 L. Ed. 1262; 1942 U.S. LEXIS 725; 1 Media L. Rep. 1907
Prior history 122 F.2d 511, reversed.
Commercial speech is not protected under the First Amendment.
Court membership
Case opinions
Majority Roberts, joined by unanimous
Laws applied
U.S. Const. amend. I
Overruled by
Virginia State Pharmacy Board v. Virginia Citizens Consumer Council (1976)

Valentine v. Chrestensen, 316 U.S. 52 (1942), was a case in which the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that commercial speech is not protected under the First Amendment


The case started when the respondent, F.J. Chrestensen violated a New York City municipal ordinance (§318 of the Sanitary Code) which prohibited distributing printed handbills in the streets bearing "commercial advertising matter." Chrestensen was using the handbills to promote his exhibit of a World War I submarine that was moored at a State pier in the East River and open for the public if they paid the stated admission fee.

Chrestensen was told by the Police Commissioner of New York City, Lewis J. Valentine, that he could not distribute the handbills bearing the commercial or business advertising matter. Valentine also advised Chrestensen that he could only distribute handbills solely devoted to "information, or a public protest."[1]

Chrestensen remade his handbill, by removing the admission fee on the front advertisement and on the reverse side placing a protest against the City Dock Department's refusal to grant him dockage.

Opinion of the Court[edit]

The court decided that "purely commercial advertising" is not protected under the first amendment. The court explained its decision as to why advertising did not afford the same protection as "political speech" under the first amendment because: a) advertising is not as important as political speech b) it is harder to chill advertising, which has a strong profit motive c) it's easier to verify ad claims than political claims, and therefore we have no need to tolerate false advertising.

Subsequent developments[edit]

This case was the first major case to address the limits of "commercial speech" and was later overturned by Virginia State Pharmacy Board v. Virginia Citizens Consumer Council (1976).


  • Justia's US Supreme Court Center [2]

External links[edit]

  • Text of Valentine v. Chrestensen, 316 U.S. 52 (1942) is available from:  Findlaw  Justia