Mapp v. Ohio

From Academic Kids

Mapp v. Ohio, 367 U.S. 643 (1961) was a landmark case in the area of U.S. criminal procedure, in which the United States Supreme Court decided that the Fourth Amendment protection against "unreasonable searches and seizures" must be extended to states as well as the federal government.


When the Cleveland Police received news that Ms. Dollree Mapp and her daughter were harboring a suspected bombing fugitive they immediately went to her house and demanded entrance. Mapp called her attorney and under his advice she refused to give them entry because they didn’t have a warrant. Several hours later more officers came to her door and demanded once again that they be permitted to enter her house. After Mapp refused, they forcibly opened a door to the house and proceeded in. Mapp confronted them and demanded to see the search warrant. The police waved a piece of paper in the air (claiming it was the warrant) and Mapp grabbed it so the police handcuffed her. They searched her entire house and when they reached her basement they found a chest filled with pornographic material. The officers arrested Mapp for violating an Ohio law which prohibited the possession of obscene material. At her trial, Mapp was found guilty based on the evidence that was presented by the police. Mapp’s attorney questioned the police about the warrant but they could not show one. This led Mapp to appeal to the Supreme Court of Ohio. Mapp’s attorney claimed that she should not have even been tried because the evidence that was used against her was obtained without warrant which is illegal. The Supreme Court agreed that this was a “reasonable argument” but they said the evidence was still permissible because the material was forced from the trunk and not the individual. Mapp’s conviction was upheld so she appealed to the Supreme Court of the U.S.

The Decision and Rationale

The question brought up was: “May evidence obtained by a search in violation of the 4th amendment be used in state criminal proceedings?” The fourth amendment protects individuals from unreasonable searches and seizures but the amendment does not include how to treat a search done without a warrant. In two previous cases (Boyd v. United States and Weeks v. United States) the court had determined that the federal government may not use such evidence due to the exclusionary rule which forbids evidence gathered without a warrant to be presented in court. This rule had not been applied to state courts before though. In Wolf v. Colorado the Supreme Court ruled that the 14th amendment made the 4th amendment apply to states but also that the exclusionary rule didn’t apply to states. Even though they had reached that decision the Supreme Court agreed to hear Mapp’s case and decide whether they should overturn their decision in Wolf v. Colorado by deciding whether the U.S. Constitution forbids state officials from using evidence obtained in violation of the Fourth Amendment.

The case was decided in favor of Ms. Dollree Mapp with a vote of six to three. The court stated that the exclusionary rule also applies to states meaning that states can’t use evidence gained by illegal means to convict someone. This overturned the Wolf ruling. Justice Clark who wrote the majority opinion explains that the court’s rationale is based on the connection between the fourth and the fourteenth amendment when he says: “Since the Fourth Amendment's right of 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.” The court believed that if the right of privacy stated in the fourth amendment is valid to the states so should the exclusionary rule. Also, Justice Clark believed that this decision was clearly common sense and that the exclusionary rule was a very important part of both the fourth and fourteenth amendment. Justice Clark defends his decision against the argument that this rule allows criminals to go free just because a police officer made a mistake. He says that “it is the law that sets him [the criminal] free” and that “Nothing can destroy a government more quickly than its failure to observe its own laws.” In the concurring opinion written by Justice Black, he expresses that he is doubtful that the fourth amendment alone can be used to prevent illegally obtained evidence from being used in state courts because it is not explicitly stated. He believes the command that no unreasonable searches or seizures be allowed is too little to infer such a large decision. With these differences aside he feels that along with previous court decisions that the “Fourth Amendment's ban against unreasonable searches and seizures is considered together with the Fifth Amendment's ban against compelled self-incrimination, a constitutional basis emerges which not only justifies but actually requires the exclusionary rule.

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