Mapp v. Ohio: Illegally Obtained Evidence In Criminal Trial (06/19/1961)


Mapp v. Ohio

Should evidence obtained from performing a search in violation of the Fourth Amendment be inadmissable in a state criminal proceeding?

Argued: 03/29/1961

Decision Date: 06/19/1961

Decision Record: 6-3; yes

Justices in Favor: Earl Warren, Hugo Black, William Douglas, Tom Clark, William Brennan, Potter Stewart

Justices Dissenting: Felix Frankfurter, John Harlan, Charles Whittaker

Effect of the Decision

This case holds that any evidence that is obtained from performing an illegal search in violation of the Fourth Amendment cannot be used in a state criminal trial.

In Favor

In the representation of the side of Dollree Mapp, attorney A. L. Kearns said, “We have a situation here arising in Cuyahoga County, Ohio.

The defendant-appellant in this case was living in a residential neighborhood, owned her own home, and living there in a two-family house on the second floor, having rented the first floor to another tenant.

She lived there with a daughter approximately eleven years of age.

The evidence in this case disclosed that she is a woman without any record whatsoever from the criminal point of view — a decent, respectable American citizen.

One day these police officers of the City of Cleveland, three in number, and the record sets forth the occurrence, came to the house and wanted to be admitted for the purpose of making a search.

When they rapped at the door or rang the bell, she looked out the window and asked them what they wanted.

And they said that they wanted to search the house.

And she said that she would call her lawyer and see what he says.

Now, the evidence discloses that the police officers claimed that they were informed that there was some paraphernalia for the numbers game in the house, and they were also informed that a person wanted for questioning in a bombing was in the house.

She called her lawyer, Mr. Greene, who is my associate; and he said to her, if they have a search warrant, you permit them into the house.

So she told them that they’d have to have a search warrant.

One of the police officers then called his chief, a Lieutenant Cooney, and told him he couldn’t get into the house because they required a search warrant and within a few minutes thereafter, several zone cars with many police officers surrounded the house.

Then, the evidence discloses, at least two of the police officers who knew — one was Sergeant Delau — knew what he was there for, but made no effort to procure a search warrant, neither one of them did, but they testified that a search warrant was procured by a Lieutenant White.

Now, they didn’t know about it.

The evidence discloses that they were told that a search warrant had been procured.

When they came to the house with the search warrant and by the time or supposed search warrant, by the time they arrived, Mr. Greene was also there.

This Lieutenant White came and showed a piece of paper, and Mrs. Mapp demanded to see the paper and to read it to see what it was, which they refused to do, so she grabbed it out of his hand to look at it and then a scuffle started, and she put this piece of paper into her bosom. And very readily the police officer put his hands into her bosom and removed the paper, and thereafter, thereafter handcuffed her while the police officers started to search the house.

Now, the evidence in the case discloses that the State claims there were only seven police officers, some in uniform.

Mr. Greene, who was there and was not permitted entrance to the house, but was kept outside, says there were approximately twelve police officers in all.

Now, the evidence discloses that no search warrant existed. Although they claimed that there was a search warrant, there is absolutely no evidence of any magistrate that had been asked for a search warrant. There was no record of a search warrant.

We asked during the trial of the case that the search warrant be produced and it was not.

The fact of the matter is that our own Supreme Court found that it was very questionable as to whether there was a search warrant in this case.

It was a piece of white paper, but the police officers never produced it, because, as a matter of fact, if it please Your Honors, I waited in the trial of the case for Lieutenant White, who was supposed to be the man who procured the search warrant, to take the stand so that at least I could cross examine him as to where, when and how he procured the search warrant and what the search warrant contained, but the State was clever enough not to put him on the stand and no other police officer knew anything about it.”


Then in opposition, representing Ohio, attorney Bernard A. Berkman claims, “Before I get into the area which was allotted to me, I would like to say that the American Civil Liberties Union and its Ohio Affiliate, the Ohio Civil Liberties Union, is very clear, in response to the question which was directed to counsel for the appellant, that we are asking this Court to reconsider Wolf versus Colorado and to find that evidence which is unlawfully and illegally obtained should not be permitted into a state proceeding, and that its production is a violation of the Federal Constitution, the Fourth Amendment and the Fourteenth Amendment.

We have no hesitancy about asking the Court to reconsider it because we think that it is a necessary part of due process.

Our principal reason for appearing on behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union and its Ohio affiliate is to urge the unconstitutionality of the Ohio obscenity law, which is Section 2905, Subsection 34 of the Ohio Revised Code.”


The majority opinion was written by Justice Tom Clark. He wrote, “Since the Fourth Amendment’s right of privacy has been declared enforceable against the States through the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth, it is enforceable against them by the same sanction of exclusion as is used against the Federal Government. Were it otherwise, then, just as without the Weeksrule the assurance against unreasonable federal searches and seizures would be “a form of words,” valueless and undeserving of mention in a perpetual charter of inestimable human liberties, so too, without that rule, the freedom from state invasions of privacy would be so ephemeral and so neatly severed from its conceptual nexus with the freedom from all brutish means of coercing evidence as not to merit this Court’s high regard as a freedom “implicit in the concept of ordered liberty.” At the time that the Court held in Wolf that the Amendment was applicable to the States through the Due Process Clause, the cases of this Court, as we have seen, had steadfastly held that as to federal officers the Fourth Amendment included the exclusion of the evidence seized in violation of its provisions. Even Wolf“stoutly adhered” to that proposition. The right to privacy, when conceded operatively enforceable against the States, was not susceptible of destruction by avulsion of the sanction upon which its protection and enjoyment had always been deemed dependent under the Boyd, Weeks and Silverthornecases. Therefore, in extending the substantive protections of due process to all constitutionally unreasonable searches — state or federal — it was logically and constitutionally necessary that the exclusion doctrine — an essential part of the right to privacy — be also insisted upon as an essential ingredient of the right newly recognized by the Wolf case. In short, the admission of the new constitutional r5ght by Wolf could not consistently tolerate denial of its most important constitutional privilege, namely, the exclusion of the evidence which an accused had been forced to give by reason of the unlawful seizure. To hold otherwise is to grant the right but, in reality, to withhold its privilege and enjoyment. Only last year, the Court itself recognized that the purpose of the exclusionary rule

is to deter — to compel respect for the constitutional guaranty in the only effectively available way — by removing the incentive to disregard it.

Indeed, we are aware of no restraint, similar to that rejected today, conditioning the enforcement of any other basic constitutional right. The right to privacy, no less important than any other right carefully and particularly reserved to the people, would stand in marked contrast to all other rights declared as “basic to a free society.” Wolf v. Colorado, supra, at 27. This Court has not hesitated to enforce as strictly against the States as it does against the Federal Government the rights of free speech and of a free press, the rights to notice and to a fair, public trial, including, as it does, the right not to be convicted by use of a coerced confession, however logically relevant it be, and without regard to its reliability. (Rogers v. Richmond) And nothing could be more certain than that, when a coerced confession is involved, “the relevant rules of evidence” are overridden without regard to “the incidence of such conduct by the police,” slight or frequent. Why should not the same rule apply to what is tantamount to coerced testimony by way of unconstitutional seizure of goods, papers, effects, documents, etc.? We find that, as to the Federal Government, the Fourth and Fifth Amendments and, as to the States, the freedom from unconscionable invasions of privacy and the freedom from convictions based upon coerced confessions do enjoy an “intimate relation” in their perpetuation of “principles of humanity and civil liberty [secured] . . . only after years of struggle,” (Bram v. United States) They express “supplementing phases of the same constitutional purpose to maintain inviolate large areas of personal privacy.” (Feldman v. United States) The philosophy of each Amendment and of each freedom is complementary to, although not dependent upon, that of the other in its sphere of influence — the very least that together they assure in either sphere is that no man is to be convicted on unconstitutional evidence.”

Then in dissent, Justice John Harlan said, “In conclusion, it should be noted that the majority opinion in this case is, in fact, an opinion only for the judgment overruling Wolf, and not for the basic rationale by which four members of the majority have reached that result. For my Brother BLACK is unwilling to subscribe to their view that the Weeksexclusionary rule derives from the Fourth Amendment itself (see ante, p. 661), but joins the majority opinion on the premise that its end result can be achieved by bringing the Fifth Amendment to the aid of the Fourth. On that score I need only say that whatever the validity of the “Fourth-Fifth Amendment” correlation which the Boyd case found we have only very recently again reiterated the long-established doctrine of this Court that the Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination is not applicable to the States. (Cohen v. Hurley)

I regret that I find so unwise in principle and so inexpedient in policy a decision motivated by the high purpose of increasing respect for Constitutional rights. But, in the last analysis, I think this Court can increase respect for the Constitution only if it rigidly respects the limitations which the Constitution places upon it, and respects as well the principles inherent in its own processes. In the present case, I think we exceed both, and that our voice becomes only a voice of power, not of reason.”

Finally, in a separate opinion, Justice Potter Stewart wrote, “Agreeing fully with Part I of MR. JUSTICE HARLAN’s dissenting opinion, I express no view as to the merits of the constitutional issue which the Court today decides. I would, however, reverse the judgment in this case, because I am persuaded that the provision of § 2905.34 of the Ohio Revised Code, upon which the petitioner’s conviction was based, is, in the words of MR. JUSTICE HARLAN, not “consistent with the rights of free thought and expression assured against state action by the Fourteenth Amendment.”

My Opinion:

In this case, I agree with the majority’s decision. Authorities performed an illegal search on Mapp and obtained evidence that they proceeded to attempt to use during the state criminal trial. The Fourth Amendment clearly protects all American citizens from unreasonable searches or seizures. The authorities warrantly searched a house, which compeltely violates the Fourth Amendment. A citizen’s constitutional right must be protected and if the evidence was unconstitutionally and unfairly retrieved, then it should definitely not be used in court.

The exclusionary rule, under the Fourth Amendment, also clearly states that all illegally obtained evidence may not be used in a court trial. This applies wholly in this case, because evidence was illegally acquired, as repeatedly stated, and authorties tried to use it against the defendant. This violated the exclusionary rule.

*Justice Leaning L=Left, LC=Left of Center, C=Center, RC=Right of Center, R=Right

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