Context is important when discussing Supreme Court cases. The Fourth Amendment prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures. Interestingly, the Fourth Amendment does not explicitly prohibit warrantless searches, it merely prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures and requires that warrants must be based on probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and specifically...
Context is important when discussing Supreme Court cases. The Fourth Amendment prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures. Interestingly, the Fourth Amendment does not explicitly prohibit warrantless searches, it merely prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures and requires that warrants must be based on probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and specifically describe the location of the search or the items to be seized. Most importantly, the Fourth Amendment only applies to the Federal government. States were not required to follow the Fourth Amendment.
In 1949, the Supreme Court incorporated the Fourth Amendment into the Fourteenth Amendment in the case of Wolf v. Colorado. By incorporating the Fourth Amendment into the Fourteenth Amendment, the Supreme Court declared that states were required to adhere to the prohibitions and limitations included in the Fourth Amendment; however, the Court in Wolf also explicitly held that the exclusionary rule was not a necessary protection for an individual's Fourth Amendment rights. This meant that a state could violate an individual's Fourth Amendment rights and use any evidence obtained through this violation to convict an individual, though the individual may be able to sue for redress in a civil action.
In 1961, the Supreme Court overturned Wolf v. Colorado and decided that the exclusionary rule was a necessary remedy against violations of the Fourth Amendment. The Court noted that no other acceptable deterrents had been formulated to protect an individual's due process rights when an unreasonable search and seizure had occurred. The Court also noted that almost half of the states had independently enshrined the exclusionary rule as a necessary remedy for violations of an individual's Fourth Amendment rights. The Court also noted that the Federal judiciary had been using the exclusionary rule for over 50 years, and there was some concern about the potential for Federal authorities to turn over evidence obtained in an unreasonable search so that state authorities in states that did not use the exclusionary rule could obtain convictions.
Justice Stewart concurred in the result but also opined that the statute under which Mapp had been convicted violated the First Amendment. However, this opinion is mere dicta because it was not included in the majority opinion.
The facts of the Mapp case may have swayed some of the justices who may have been inclined to hold with prior precedent because the facts show a rather blatant disregard of Mapp's Fourth Amendment rights. The officers in this case asked permission to enter and search Mapp's home. She denied them permission. Later, police returned to her home and knocked on the door. When she didn't answer they kicked down the door and entered over her objections. Mapp demanded to see the warrant that allowed for this search, and an officer held up a piece of paper which Mapp grabbed and hid in her dress. The officers struggled with her and retrieved this piece of paper before handcuffing Mapp and searching the home. They also later barred her attorney from entering. At trial, the warrant was not entered into evidence. Later, at the Supreme Court argument, the prosecutor deflected questions about the warrant itself, leading to the impression that a warrant had not existed.
Mapp v. Ohio did not provide additional rationales for the extension of the exclusionary rule, though the extension itself did involve the Supreme Court in the need to determine the application of the exclusionary rule on a case-by-case basis. Ultimately, the good faith exceptions to the Fourth Amendment would exist, likely for two reasons.
First, the Fourth Amendment does not expressly prohibit warrantless searches. Courts have often treated warrantless searches as unreasonable, though this is more likely to be a process issue. Without a warrant, there is no independent record of an officer's reasons for searching a location or seizing an item or person. This makes post hoc rationalizations easy to create and allows for the possibility that the results of a search may color the perceptions of reasonableness. The good faith exceptions, in general, exist in an area where searches are deemed reasonable despite lacking a warrant, either because officers are engaged in another activity that allows them to identify contraband when a search is not their primary purpose (e.g., hot pursuit, plain sight), or because sufficient probable cause exists but there is insufficient time to obtain a warrant (e.g., exigent circumstances, Terry stop).
Second, good faith exceptions would likely remain for a more human reason. Justices are humans and, like most of us, do not like to see obviously guilty individuals escape punishment based on minor process errors. A common saying in law schools and among legal analysts is "hard facts make bad law." This means that when facts present a situation where following the legal precedent will lead to a result that is detestable to the Justices and there is a plausible reason for distinguishing the legal precedents at issue, then the Justices will make a narrow exception.