Mapp v. Ohio
367 U.S. 643, 81 S.Ct. 1684, L.Ed.2d 1081 (1961)

  • The police suspected Mapp of harboring a fugitive. They went to her house and asked if they could search it, but she refused.
  • A few hours later, the police came back waving a piece of paper they claimed was a search warrant (which it wasn’t). Mapp grabbed it. The police immediately arrested Mapp, and forcibly entered her house.
    • Inside, they found a big chest filled with porn and sex toys.
      • Mapp claimed that the chest belonged to a boarder, and she had no idea what was in it.
    • During the search, Mapp’s lawyer showed up, but the police refused to allow him to talk to Mapp, and ignored his demand that they get a search warrant before entering the property.
  • Mapp was charged with possession of obscene material.
  • At trial, Mapp argued that since the police did not have a warrant, their search was illegal, and therefore the evidence found should be excluded based on the 4th Amendment.
  • The trial judge allowed the evidence to be admitted.
  • Mapp was convicted of possession of obscene materials and sentenced to seven years in prison. She appealed.
  • The Ohio Supreme Court upheld the conviction. Mapp appealed.
    • The Ohio Supreme Court agreed with Mapp that, “the methods employed to obtain the evidence were such as to offend a sense of justice.”
    • However the Ohio Supreme Court differentiated between evidence that was peacefully seized from an inanimate object (the trunk) rather than forcibly seized from an individual.
  • The US Supreme Court overturned the conviction.
    • The US Supreme Court noted that the 4th Amendment says nothing about the remedy for an illegal search and seizure.
      • Exclusion only became the Federal standard after Weeks. v. United States (232 U.S. 383 (1914)).
    • However, the Court found that, “since the 4th Amendment’s right of privacy has been declared enforceable against the States through the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment, it is enforceable against them by the same sanction of exclusion as is used against the Federal Government.”
      • Basically, the Court was saying that if there is a universal right to privacy, all of the jurisdictions should enforce that right in the same way, in order to be consistent.
    • The Court also looked to the other suggested remedies for 4th Amendment violations, and found that they were unworkable.
      • For example, civil lawsuits against the police sound like a good solution, but they require money to file, and there is little chance that a convicted felon could prevail in a jury trial against the policeman who uncovered his crimes.
  • Since exclusion is only relevant to a defendant who is on trial, what is the remedy for those people who are entirely innocent? If the police find no contraband, then there is no remedy for the person’s violation of privacy. Is the exclusionary rule fair since it gives the guilty a remedy, but gives no remedy to the innocent?
  • This decision overturned Wolf v. Colorado (338 U.S. 25 (1949)), which had said that since the remedy for a violation of the 4th Amendment was not specified in the Constitution, States had the option of using different remedies as long as they were fair.
    • The difference was probably that when Wolf had been decided, 2/3rds of the States did not follow the exclusionary rule, while by the time this case was decided, more than half of the States (including California) followed the exclusionary rule.