A federal judge in Baltimore has upheld the constitutionality of a county law passed last month that imposes a moratorium on obtaining licenses to show adult videos.
U.S. District Court Judge Frederic N.Smalkin said the law -- which gives county officials until Dec. 1 todevelop new guidelines regulating peep shows -- does not violate theconstitutional right to freedom of speech.
Smalkin said that Annapolis Road Books, in the 1600 block of Annapolis Road in Odenton, is free to sell or rent adult entertainment materials.
"The moratorium, which lasts only four months and is intended to result in a better, comprehensive final licensing ordinance, itself is content-neutral and applies only to coin-operated private film-viewing devices," the judge wrote.
"The 'restraint' placed upon First Amendment freedom . . . does not prevent sale, rental, or other dissemination of adult entertainment materials . . . Thus, there is significant doubt whether the moratorium constitutes a prior restraint at all."
Annapolis Road Books, which is closed, claimed in itssuit filed Aug. 13 that the moratorium was vague and allows officials to deny licenses for reasons other than constitutional concerns.
A week earlier, 2020 News in Parole filed a similar suit in federal court. Both businesses had been showing peep shows without the required Class Y license. County officials have gone to court to get the Parole store to stop.
The Odenton store agreed to halt showing the films until it can get a license.
Deputy County Attorney David Plymyer said the federal ruling will give the county power to shut down the Parole store and prevent the Odenton store from showing the films until the moratorium expires.
"The county has not suppressed theirmeans of distribution," Plymyer said. "We have merely stopped the means that some of the things are distributed."
Plymyer also said heexpects the lawsuit the Parole store filed to be dismissed in the same way.