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Mapp V. Ohio

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Category: American History

Autor: anton 04 December 2010

Words: 1437 | Pages: 6

MAPP V. OHIO

367 U.S. 643 (1961)

Ms. Dollree Mapp and her daughter lived in Cleveland, Ohio. After receiving information that an individual wanted in connection with a recent bombing was hiding in Mapp’s house, the Cleveland police knocked on her door and demanded entrance. Mapp called her attorney and subsequently refused to let the police in when they failed to produce a search warrant. After several hours of surveillance and the arrival of more officers, the police again sought entrance to the house. Although Mapp did not allow them to enter, they gained access by forcibly opening at least one door. Once the police were inside the house, Mapp confronted them and demanded to see their warrant. One of the officers held up a piece of paper claiming it was a search warrant. Mapp grabbed the paper but an officer recovered it and handcuffed Mapp “because she had been belligerent.” Dragging Mapp upstairs, officers proceeded to search not only her room, but also her daughter’s bedroom, the kitchen, dinette, living room, and basement.

In the course of the basement search, police found a trunk containing “lewd and lascivious” books and pictures. As a result, Mapp was arrested for violating an Ohio law prohibiting the possession of obscene materials. The Cuyahoga County Common Please Court found her guilty of the violation based on the evidence presented by the police. When Mapp’s attorney questioned the officers about the alleged warrant and asked for it to be produced, the police were unable or unwilling to do so. Nonetheless, Mapp was found guilty and sentenced to 1 to 7 years in the Ohio Women’s Reformatory.

Upon her conviction, Mapp appealed the case to the Court of Appeals, Eighth Judicial Circuit, but the court upheld the decision of the lower court. In 1960, Mapp appealed her case to the Supreme Court of Ohio. Her attorney argued that she should never have been brought to trial because the material evidence resulted from an illegal, warrantless search. Because the search was unlawful, he maintained that the evidence was illegally obtained and must also be excluded. In its ruling, the Supreme Court of Ohio recognized that “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 also stated that the materials were admissible evidence. The Court explained its ruling by differentiating between evidence that was peacefully seized from an inanimate object, such as a trunk, rather than forcibly seized from an individual. Based on this decision, Mapp's appeal was denied and her conviction was upheld.

Mapp appealed again to the Supreme Court of the United States in 1961. The case basically came down to this fundamental question: may evidence obtained through a search in violation of the Fourth Amendment be admissible in state criminal proceedings? The Fourth Amendment states, “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause…and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” The Fourth Amendment, however, does not define when a search or seizure is “unreasonable” nor does it specify how evidence obtained from an “unreasonable” search should be treated.

While never previously addressing the specific question presented by Mapp’s case, the Supreme Court of the United States had made attempts to determine what constitutes a reasonable search and what evidence can be used in court. It first dealt with similar issues in Boyd v. United States (1886) when the Court declared that “any forcible and compulsory extortion of a man’s own…private papers to be used as evidence to convict him of a crime…is within the condemnation of the Fourth Amendment.” Later, in Weeks v. United States (1914), the Court ruled that the Fourth Amendment “put the courts of the United States and federal officials…under limitations…and forever secured the people, their persons, houses, papers and effects against all unreasonable searches and seizures…” By including only United States and federal officials in its ruling, however, the Court still left open the question of whether evidence unlawfully seized could be used in a state criminal court proceeding. In 1949 the Court for the first time discussed the effect of the Fourth Amendment on the states in Wolf v. Colorado. It concluded that the Due Process Clause of the Fourth Amendment incorporated, or made applicable to the states, the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution. However, the ruling in Wolf also made clear that “in a prosecution in a State court for a State crime in the Fourteenth Amendment does not forbid the admission of evidence obtained by an unreasonable search and seizure.” In other words, the exclusionary rule did not apply to the states.

Some states, including Ohio, felt that they should be able to make their own determination regarding the admissibility of illegally obtained evidence. Nevertheless, in 1960 the Supreme Court of the United States agreed to hear Mapp’s case and reconsider the decision it had reached in Wolf by determining whether the U.S. Constitution prohibited state officials from using evidence obtained in violation of the Fourth Amendment. In 1961, the Court decided that the exclusionary rule does in fact apply to the States as well as the Federal Government and the evidence that was obtained through the unlawful search and seizure was not admissible in court. A portion of the Court’s opinion delivered by Justice Clark is as follows:

Since the Fourth Amendment’s right f 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. …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… …Our decision, founded on reason and truth, gives to the individual no more than that which the Constitution guarantees him, to the police officer no less that that to which honest law enforcement is entitled, and, to the courts, that judicial integrity so necessary in the true administration of justice.

The year 1961, the time this case was argued and decided, began the so-called “Era of Creative Federalism.” This era was a time of numerous federal mandates which undermined the traditional powers of the state governments. I believe the power of the federal government and the overshadowing of the state government greatly affected the decisions made in this case at the county plea court, the Ohio Court of Appeals, and the Supreme Court of Ohio because it was decided that exclusionary rule only applied to the federal level and not to the state level (once again undermining state government authority). For these reasons, the U.S. Supreme Court decision in this case was one of the most controversial decisions at that time. Up until this decision was made, police in many states had ignored the search and seizure law.

I believe this United States Supreme Court case is particularly important because it ultimately defends a person’s Constitutional right to privacy. As stated before, until this decision was made, the search and seizure laws were given little consideration. Although there is always an exception to the rule, for the most part, evidence that is obtained in a way that violates a person’s Constitutional right is inadmissible in Court. This decision has most definitely refined the laws of the admissibility of evidence and the procedures followed by those in law enforcement.

SOURCES CONSULTED

Amber, D., R. Golding, and R. Hofstetter. Cases and Materials on American Federalism, Online Edition. Calumet: Amber Golding & Hofstetter, 2004. Accessed 30 November 2004.

Marlowe, Joelyn D., and Suzanne Cummins. Evidence for Paralegals. New York: Aspen Publishers, 2004.

O’Connor, Karen, and Larry J. Sabato. American Government: Continuity and Change. Book on-line. Upper Saddle River: Pearson Education, 2003. Internet. Accessed 29 November 2004.

Goldman, Jerry. OYEZ: U.S. Supreme Court Multimedia Online. Chicago: NorthWestern University Press, 2003. Accessed 29 November 2004.

Welch, Susan, John Gruhl, John Comer, and Susan Rigdon. American Government, 9th ed. Belmont: Thomson/Wadsworth Learning, Inc., 2004.

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