U.S. Supreme Court

MAPP v. OHIO, 367 U.S. 643 (1961)

No. 236.
Argued March 29, 1961.
Decided June 19, 1961.

All evidence obtained by searches and seizures in violation of the Federal Constitution is inadmissible in a criminal trial in a state court. Wolf v. Colorado, 338 U.S. 25, overruled insofar as it holds to the contrary. Pp. 643-660.

170 Ohio St. 427, 166 N. E. 2d 387, reversed.

[Edited for brevity]

MR. JUSTICE CLARK delivered the opinion of the Court.

On May 23, 1957, three Cleveland police officers arrived at appellant's residence in that city pursuant to information that "a person was hiding out in the home, who was wanted for questioning in connection with a recent bombing, and that there was a large amount of policy paraphernalia being hidden in the home." Miss Mapp and her daughter by a former marriage lived on the top floor of the two-family dwelling. Upon their arrival at that house, the officers knocked on the door and demanded entrance but appellant, after telephoning her attorney, refused to admit them without a search warrant. They advised their headquarters of the situation and undertook a surveillance of the house.

The officers again sought entrance some three hours later when four or more additional officers arrived on the scene. When Miss Mapp did not come to the door immediately, at least one of the several doors to the house was forcibly opened and the policemen gained admittance. Meanwhile Miss Mapp's attorney arrived, but the officers, having secured their own entry, and continuing in their defiance of the law, would permit him neither to see Miss Mapp nor to enter the house. It appears that Miss Mapp was halfway down the stairs from the upper floor to the front door when the officers, in this highhanded manner, broke into the hall. She demanded to see the search warrant. A paper, claimed to be a warrant, was held up by one of the officers. She grabbed the "warrant" and placed it in her bosom. A struggle ensued in which the officers recovered the piece of paper and as a result of which they handcuffed appellant because she had been "belligerent" 367 U.S. 643, 645 in resisting their official rescue of the "warrant" from her person. Running roughshod over appellant, a policeman "grabbed" her, "twisted her hand," and she "yelled and pleaded with him" because "it was hurting." Appellant, in handcuffs, was then forcibly taken upstairs to her bedroom where the officers searched a dresser, a chest of drawers, a closet and some suitcases. They also looked into a photo album and through personal papers belonging to the appellant. The search spread to the rest of the second floor including the child's bedroom, the living room, the kitchen and a dinette. The basement of the building and a trunk found therein were also searched. The obscene materials for possession of which she was ultimately convicted were discovered in the course of that widespread search.

At the trial no search warrant was produced by the prosecution, nor was the failure to produce one explained or accounted for. At best, "There is, in the record, considerable doubt as to whether there ever was any warrant for the search of defendant's home." 170 Ohio St., at 430, 166 N. E. 2d, at 389. The Ohio Supreme Court believed a "reasonable argument" could be made that the conviction should be reversed "because the `methods' employed to obtain the evidence . . . were such as to `offend "a sense of justice,"'" but the court found determinative the fact that the evidence had not been taken "from defendant's person by the use of brutal or offensive physical force against defendant." 170 Ohio St., at 431, 166 N. E. 2d, at 389-390.

The State says that even if the search were made without authority, or otherwise unreasonably, it is not prevented from using the unconstitutionally seized evidence at trial, citing Wolf v. Colorado, 338 U.S. 25 (1949), in which this Court did indeed hold "that in a prosecution in a State court for a State crime the Fourteenth Amendment [367 U.S. 643, 646]  does not forbid the admission of evidence obtained by an unreasonable search and seizure." At p. 33. On this appeal, of which we have noted probable jurisdiction, it is urged once again that we review that holding.

Seventy-five years ago, in Boyd v. United States, 116 U.S. 616, 630 (1886), considering the Fourth and Fifth Amendments as running "almost into each other" on the facts before it, this Court held that the doctrines of those Amendments "apply to all invasions on the part of the government and its employes of the sanctity of a man's home and the privacies of life. It is not the breaking of his doors, and the rummaging of his drawers, that constitutes the essence of the offence; but it is the invasion of his indefeasible right of personal security, personal liberty and private property . . . . Breaking into a house and opening boxes and drawers are circumstances of aggravation; but any forcible and compulsory extortion of a man's own testimony or of his private papers to be used as evidence to convict him of crime or to forfeit his goods, is within the condemnation . . . [of those Amendments]."

Less than 30 years after Boyd, this Court, in Weeks v. United States, 232 U.S. 383 (1914), stated that "the Fourth Amendment . . . put the courts of the United States and Federal officials, in the exercise of their power and authority, under limitations and restraints [and] . . . forever secure[d] the people, their persons, houses, papers and effects against all unreasonable searches and seizures under the guise of law . . . and the duty of giving to it force and effect is obligatory upon all entrusted under our Federal system with the enforcement of the laws." At pp. 391-392.

Specifically dealing with the use of the evidence unconstitutionally seized, the Court concluded: "If letters and private documents can thus be seized and held and used in evidence against a citizen accused of an offense, the protection of the Fourth Amendment declaring his right to be secure against such searches and seizures is of no value, and, so far as those thus placed are concerned, might as well be stricken from the Constitution..."

See Also: Landmark Case, Civil Rights Rulings (Circa 1960's)
* Click here to understand what those numbers mean

This history behind the landmark decision in Mapp v. Ohio (1961) is as follows: Police officers in Cleveland requested admission to enter a home to look for a fugitive who was allegedly hiding there. The police had also received information that a large amount of policy paraphernalia was hidden in the house. So, without a warrant, the police officers forced their way into the house, found obscene materials, and convicted Dolree Mapp in the state courts of possessing these obscene materials even after an admittedly illegal police search of her home for a fugitive. Mapp appealed her conviction on the basis of freedom of expression.

The case was brought to the Supreme Court which asked: Is evidence obtained in violation of the search and seizure provisions of the Fourth Amendment admissible in a state court? That was the question presented in the case. In other words, were the materials which were confiscated protected by the first amendment?

In a 6-3 decision, the Courts answered: No. Evidence obtained in violation of the provisions in the Fourth Amendment is not admissible in a state court. Basically, the Court brushed aside the First Amendment issue, and declared that "all evidence obtained by searches and seizures in violation of the Constitution is, by the Fourth Amendment, inadmissible in a state court."

The Supreme Court reasoned that Mapp had been convicted on the basis of illegally obtained evidence, hence the conviction is not admissible. The Court believed that since the Fourth Amendment's right of privacy has been declared enforceable against the states through the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, it is enforceable against them by the same sanction of exclusion as is used against the Federal Government. Therefore, all evidence obtained by searches and seizures in violation of the Constitution is, by that same authority, inadmissible in a state court.

This was also, a landmark decision by the Supreme Court. It was also a very historic and controversial decision. Consequently, the Wolf v. Colorado (1949) decision was overruled, and reversed. Another consequence was that now the Fourth Amendment's right of privacy has been declared enforceable against the states through the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. It also placed the requirement of excluding illegally obtained evidence from the courts at all different levels of the government. It also caused the Court to figure out how to determine how and when to apply this exclusionary rule.

Sources:http://oyez.nwu.edu/cases/cases.cgi and notes from Government class.

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