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Mapp V. Ohio

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Autor:   •  December 4, 2010  •  1,437 Words (6 Pages)  •  1,703 Views

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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 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


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