Mapp v. Ohio

Mapp v. Ohio
Mapp v. Ohio
Seal of the United States Supreme Court.svg
Supreme Court of the United States
Argued March 29, 1961
Decided June 19, 1961
Full case name Dollree Mapp v. State of Ohio
Citations 367 U.S. 643 (more)
81 S. Ct. 1684; 6 L. Ed. 2d 1081; 1961 U.S. LEXIS 812; 86 Ohio L. Abs. 513; 16 Ohio Op. 2d 384; 84 A.L.R.2d 933
Prior history Defendant convicted, Cuyahoga County, Ohio Court of Common Pleas; affirmed, Ohio Court of Appeals; affirmed, 166 N.E.2d 387 (Ohio 1960)
Subsequent history Rehearing denied, 368 U.S. 871 (1961)
The Fourth Amendment prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures, as applied to the states through the Fourteenth, excludes unconstitutionally obtained evidence from use in criminal prosecutions. Ohio Supreme Court reversed.
Court membership
Case opinions
Majority Clark, joined by Warren, Black, Douglas, Brennan
Concurrence Black
Concurrence Douglas
Concurrence Stewart
Dissent Harlan, joined by Frankfurter, Whittaker
Laws applied
U.S. Const. amends. IV, XIV

Mapp v. Ohio, 367 U.S. 643 (1961), was a landmark case in criminal procedure, in which the United States Supreme Court decided that evidence obtained in violation of the Fourth Amendment, which protects against "unreasonable searches and seizures," may not be used in criminal prosecutions in state courts, as well as federal courts.



When the Cleveland Police Department received a tip that 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 did not have a warrant. Several hours later, more officers came to her door and demanded 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 and put it down her shirt. The police eventually got the "warrant" back from Mapp. The officers then cuffed her feet and went on to search her entire house for the fugitive. When they reached her basement they found a trunk containing a small collection of pornographic books, pictures, and photographs.[1] Mapp said the trunk was left in the basement by a previous tenant and was not aware of its contents.[2]

The officers arrested Mapp for violating an Ohio law which prohibited the possession of obscene material. No fugitive or any evidence of one was ever found at the house.[2] At her trial in the Court of Common Pleas of Cuyahoga County, Mapp was convicted 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.

On appeal, the Ohio Court of Appeals affirmed. Mapp appealed further 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. The Court stated that the materials were admissible evidence and explained its ruling by differentiating between evidence that was peacefully taken from an inanimate object (the trunk) and forcibly taken from an individual. Based on this decision, Mapp's appeal was denied and her conviction upheld. She then appealed to the Supreme Court of the United States.

Supreme Court decision and rationale

The Fourth Amendment protects individuals from unreasonable searches and seizures but does not directly instruct on how government might use the fruits of an illegal search, if at all. In two previous cases (Boyd v. United States and Weeks v. United States), the court said that the federal government may not use such evidence. It cited the exclusionary rule, which forbids evidence gathered illegally to be admissible in court. However, this rule had not been previously applied to state courts. In Weeks v. United States (1914) the Supreme Court created the exclusionary rule for federal prosecutions. In Wolf v. Colorado (1949), the Supreme Court recognized that a remedy for illegal police searches was required, but it failed to require states to implement the exclusionary rule. Pertinently, the exclusionary rule was never broadly enforced at the state level until the decision in Mapp v. Ohio.

The case was decided in Mapp's favor by a vote of 6–3. The court explicitly stated that the exclusionary rule applies to states, hence the state cannot use evidence gained by illegal means to convict. This overturned the Wolf ruling. Justice Thomas C. Clark, writing the majority opinion, explained that the court’s rationale is based on the connection between the fourth and the Fourteenth Amendment when he wrote: "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 reasoned that, if the right of privacy as delineated in the Fourth Amendment controls state action, so too should the Fourth's exclusionary rule. Justice Clark also invoked common sense, stating that the exclusionary rule was integral to both the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments. Justice Clark dismissed the argument that this rule allows criminals to go free as a result of honest police mistake, writing 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, Justice Black expressed doubt that the Fourth Amendment alone could be used to prohibit illegally obtained evidence's use in state courts to convict, primarily because such an exclusion is not explicitly stated. He believed the language restricting unreasonable searches and seizures is framed too modestly to allow an interpretation so vast as exclusionary. These differences aside, he claims 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."

Dissenting opinion

Justice Harlan's dissenting opinion argued that the majority had wrongly "reached out" to overrule Wolf, saying "... I can perceive no justification for regarding this case as an appropriate occasion for re-examining Wolf[3]" and complaining that the issue had not been properly briefed. He also felt that the wrong question was brought up.

See also


  1. ^ Cohen, Adam (February 15, 2009). "Is the Supreme Court About to Kill Off the Exclusionary Rule?". The New York Times. Retrieved May 12, 2010. "Ms. Mapp was convicted of possessing obscene materials, even though the evidence was taken without a warrant. She was tried in state court, like the overwhelming majority of criminal defendants. So it did her no good that federal courts had applied the so-called 'exclusionary rule' since 1914 to bar the use of illegally seized evidence." 
  2. ^ a b MAPP v. OHIO, 367 U.S. 643 (1961) "Appellant stands convicted of knowingly having had in her possession and under her control certain lewd and lascivious books, pictures, and photographs in violation of 2905.34 of Ohio's Revised Code."
  3. ^ Otis H. Stephens; John M. Scheb (2007). American Constitutional Law: Civil Rights and Liberties. Cengage Learning. pp. 341. ISBN 978-0-495-09705-1. 

Further reading

  • Long, Carolyn (2006). Mapp v. Ohio: Guarding Against Unreasonable Searches and Seizures. University Press of Kansas. ISBN 0700614419. 
  • Stewart, Potter (1983). "The Road to Mapp v. Ohio and beyond: The Origins, Development and Future of the Exclusionary Rule in Search-and-Seizure Cases". Columbia Law Review (Columbia Law Review Association, Inc.) 83 (6): 1365–1404. doi:10.2307/1122492. JSTOR 1122492. 
  • Zotti, Priscilla H. Machado (2005). Injustice for All: Mapp vs. Ohio and the Fourth Amendment. New York: Peter Lang. ISBN 0820472670. 

External links

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