Mapp v. Ohio (West's Encyclopedia of American Law)
A landmark Supreme Court decision, Mapp v. Ohio, 367 U.S. 643, 81 S. Ct. 1684, 6 L. Ed. 2d 1081 (1961), established the rule that evidence that has been obtained by an illegal SEARCH AND SEIZURE cannot be used to prove the guilt of a defendant at a state criminal trial.
Police officers went to the home of Dollree Mapp in an attempt to find someone who was wanted for questioning about a recent bombing. When they demanded entrance to the house, Mapp called her attorney and refused to allow the police to enter without a SEARCH WARRANT. Subsequently the police officers became rough with Mapp and handcuffed her. Upon a search of the house, they found obscene books, pictures, and photographs for the possession of which the defendant was subsequently prosecuted and convicted.
The defendant brought an unsuccessful action challenging the constitutionality of the search. An appeal was made to the Ohio Supreme Court, which affirmed the judgment. The defendant appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which reversed the decision on the ground that evidence obtained by an unconstitutional seizure was inadmissible.
The Court was extremely critical of the actions of the police and held that the defendant's privacy had been unconstitutionally invaded....
(The entire section is 346 words.)
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Mapp v. Ohio (Great American Court Cases)
Legal Citation: 367 U.S. 643 (1961)
State of Ohio
That the state is barred from using evidence at trial that was obtained through an unlawful search and seizure.
Chief Lawyer for Petitioner
A. L. Kearns
Chief Lawyer for Respondent
Gertrude Bauer Mahon
Justices for the Court
Hugo Lafayette Black, William J. Brennan, Jr., Tom C. Clark (writing for the Court), William O. Douglas, Potter Stewart, Earl Warren
Felix Frankfurter, John Marshall Harlan II, Charles Evans Whittaker
Date of Decision
19 June 1961
The Court held that the exclusionary rule, which prevents unconstitutionally obtained evidence from being introduced at trial, applies to states as well as to the federal government.
After Mapp, state police as well as state courts, where most criminal prosecutions take place, were obliged to follow the Fourth Amendment prohibition against illegal...
(The entire section is 1335 words.)
Mapp v. Ohio (Supreme Court Drama)
Appellant: Dollree Mapp
Appellee: State of Ohio
Appellant's Claim: That convicting her with evidence obtained during an illegal search violated the Fourth Amendment.
Chief Lawyer for Appellant: A.L. Kearns
Chief Lawyer for Appellee: Gertrude Bauer Mahon
Justices for the Court: Hugo Lafayette Black, William J. Brennan, Jr., Tom C. Clark, William O. Douglas, Potter Stewart, Earl Warren
Justices Dissenting: Felix Frankfurter, John Marshall Harlan II, Charles Evans Whittaker
Date of Decision: June 19, 1961
Decision: The Supreme Court reversed Mapp's conviction.
Significance: Until Mapp, states did not have to obey the exclusionary rule, which prevents the government from using evidence its gets during an illegal search and seizure. By forcing states to obey the exclusionary rule, the Supreme Court strengthened the Fourth Amendment's protection of privacy for Americans.
A persons privacy is protected by the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The Fourth Amendment requires law enforcement officers to get a warrant to search a house or other private place for evidence of a crime. In Weeks v. United States (1914), the U.S. Supreme Court created the exclusionary rule. That rule prevents the federal government from convicting a defendant with evidence the government finds during an illegal search without a warrant.
In Wolf v. Colorado (1949), the Supreme Court said state and local governments must obey the Fourth Amendment by getting a warrant to conduct a search. The Court also said, however, that the exclusionary rule does not apply to the states. That allowed state prosecutors to use evidence seized during illegal searches without warrants. Mapp v. Ohio gave the Supreme Court the chance to overrule Wolf and apply the exclusionary rule to the states.
Breaking and Entering
On May 23, 1957, police officers in Cleveland, Ohio, had information that a bombing suspect was hiding in the house of Dollree Mapp. They also thought the house had illegal gambling equipment. When the police went to Mapp's house to search it, however, Mapp called her attorney and then refused to let the police in without a search warrant.
The police stationed themselves outside Mapp's home to watch the place. Three hours later they sought entrance again. When Mapp did not come to the door immediately, the police forced it open and entered the house. Mapp demanded to see a search warrant and grabbed the piece of paper the police waved at her. The police struggled with Mapp to get the paper back, hurting her in the process, and then put her in handcuffs. The paper was not really a search warrant.
The police searched Mapp's entire house, looking in rooms, leafing through photo albums and personal papers, and opening a trunk. They never found the bombing suspect or any gambling equipment. They did, however, find obscene materials that were illegal to have under Ohio's obscenity law. The police charged Mapp with violating that law and the court convicted her and put her in prison.
Mapp appealed her conviction. Her main argument was that Ohio's obscenity law violated her right to freedom of thought under the First Amendment. The Ohio Supreme Court rejected this argument. Mapp also argued that Ohio should not be allowed to convict her with evidence found during an illegal search without a warrant. Relying on Wolf, the Ohio Supreme Court also rejected this argument and affirmed Mapp's conviction. Mapp appealed her case to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Law Over Anarchy
With a 6 decision, the Supreme Court reversed Mapp's conviction. Writing for the Court, Justice Tom C. Clark ignored the First Amendment issue and focused on the illegal search and seizure. Clark and the rest of the majority decided to overrule Wolf and apply the exclusionary rule to the states.
Clark emphasized that the Fourth Amendment was designed to protect privacy for Americans in their homes. Without the exclusionary rule, state police are encouraged to invade privacy with illegal searches and seizures. It also encourages federal law enforcement to violate the Fourth Amendment and then give the illegal evidence to the states.
Clark said the exclusionary rule not only protects privacy, but also fosters respect for the law. "Nothing can destroy a government more quickly than its failure to observe its own laws. . . . If the Government becomes a lawbreaker, it breeds contempt [disrespect] for the law; it invites every man to become a law unto himself; it invites anarchy."
Suggestions for further reading
Franklin, Paula A. The Fourth Amendment. Englewood Cliffs: Silver Burdett Press, 1991.
Persico, Deborah A. Mapp v. Ohio: Evidence and Search Warrants. Enslow Publishers, Inc., 1997.
. New Jersey v. T.L.O: Drug Searches in Schools. Enslow Publishers, Inc., 1998.
Shattuck, John H.F. Rights of Privacy. Skokie: National Textbook Co., 1977.
Wetterer, Charles M. The Fourth Amendment: Search and Seizure. Enslow Publishers, Inc., 1998.
Witt, Elder, ed. Guide to the U.S. Supreme Court, 2d ed. Washington, D.C.: Congressional Quarterly, 1990.