Mapp vs. Ohio Term Paper

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Ohio Case Brief

Mapp v. Ohio

367 U.S. 643 (1961)

Year Decided: 1961

Character of Action: Appellant Mapp sought review of the decision of the Ohio

Supreme Court, which affirmed her conviction under Ohio Rev. Code 2905.34, for possession of lewd and lascivious books, pictures, and photographs.

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Facts: Police officers received information that a wanted person was hiding in appellant Mapp's home, and three Police officers demanded entrance to appellant's home. Appellant contacted her attorney and refused to admit the police to her home without a search warrant. The police set up surveillance of her home; a duplex-style building with Appellant's living quarters on the second floor. When more officers arrived, they forcibly entered appellant's home. Appellant's attorney arrived, but the officers refused to permit him to enter the house or to see appellant. Appellant demanded to see a search warrant. The police showed her a piece of paper that they claimed was a warrant; appellant grabbed the paper and placed it in her bosom. The officers and appellant struggled over the paper, the officers subdued her, and the officers handcuffed her. The police then took the Appellant upstairs to her living quarters, where the police executed a general search of her bedroom, her child's bedroom, the living room, the kitchen, and a dinette. This search included closed places such as suitcases, dresser-drawers, and a pile of personal papers. The police then searched the basement of the building. During the course of the widespread search, the police discovered the material supporting appellant's conviction; a few documents that were considered obscenity in violation of Ohio Rev. Code 2905.34. At trial, the State could not produce the search warrant; in fact, the likelihood is that there was no warrant. In addition, the search was executed to recover material linked to a recent bombing, not to uncover material linked to obscenity.

Term Paper on Mapp vs. Ohio Assignment

F. Issues: The Court was asked to determine whether admitting evidence obtained as the result of an illegal search violated the Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments. The Court was asked to determine whether the admissibility of illegally seized evidence was a constitutional issue or a matter of evidence law. Specifically, the Court was asked to determine if the exclusionary rule established in Weeks v. United States applied to state-court proceedings as a result of the Fourteenth Amendment. The Court was also asked to determine whether the manner in which such evidence was obtained affected the admissibility of such evidence, or whether an illegal search that did not shock the conscience was somehow better than an illegal search that did not shock the conscience. Finally, the Court was asked to determine whether the anti-obscenity provisions of Ohio. Rev. Code 2905.34 violated the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution.

G. Decision: The Court reversed and remanded the decision of the Ohio Supreme Court. The Court determined that appellant's conviction was unlawful based on the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment search and seizure issues. The Court held that "all evidence obtained by searches and seizures in violation of the Constitution is, by that same authority, inadmissible in a state court." The Court did not address whether the anti-obscenity provisions of Ohio Rev. Code 2905.34 violated the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution.

H. Opinion: One of the reasons that the Court found it compelling to require the states to adopt the exclusionary rule developed in Weeks is that half of the states had already adopted such a rule, finding that other remedies deprived defendants of the essential protections of the Fourth Amendment. In Elkins v. United States, the Court had previously determined that all evidence obtained as the result of an unconstitutional search or seizure was inadmissible in Federal court, which helped delineate the breadth and scope of the Fourth Amendment. Furthermore, the Court held that the Fourteenth Amendment extended the Fourth Amendment's right of privacy to the State actions. As a result, the Court held that the Fourth Amendment's right to privacy was enforceable against the states by the "same sanction of exclusion as is used against the Federal Government." In fact, in Elkins v. United States, the Court determined that the purpose of the exclusionary rule is "to compel respect for the constitutional guaranty in the only effectively available way- by removing the incentive to disregard it." Historically, of all constitutionally guaranteed rights, only those protected by the Fourth Amendment had been conditionally guaranteed. The result was that, though a person could not be forced to testify against oneself, one could have been forced to provide the evidence leading to one's conviction. The Court determined that such a conclusion conflicted with earlier opinions. For example, coerced confessions were absolutely inadmissible. In Bram v. United States, the Court found that the freedom from unconscionable invasions of privacy and the freedom from convictions based on coerced confessions were inherently similar. In Rochin v. California, the Court expressed the principle that no man was to be convicted on unconstitutional evidence, regardless of the nature of the constitutional violation.

In addition to believing that the exclusionary rule should apply to state-actions because of precedence in other constitutional areas, the Court determined that it was common sense to extend the exclusionary rule to the states. The Court wants to avoid conflict between state and federal courts; under the previous rule, even federal officers could testify in state court about illegally seized evidence. The Court acknowledged that such a rule would allow criminals to go free because of law-enforcement errors, but also suggested that this would teach law-enforcement to be more respectful of the Constitution, and lead to progressively fewer constitutional violations.

I. Concurring Opinion: There were several concurring opinions.

A. Justice Black's Concurrence: The Fourth Amendment alone may not be sufficient to prohibit the introduction of evidence obtained as the result of an unreasonable search and seizure, because the Fourth Amendment does not contain any provision precluding the use of illegally obtained evidence. However, when considered with the Fifth Amendment's self-incrimination ban, the Fourth Amendment does not only permit an exclusionary rule, but actually requires such a rule. In fact, in Boyd v. United States, the Court was unable to substantially differentiate between the invasion of a person's Fourth Amendment right to privacy and a person's Fifth Amendment right to be free from self-incrimination. Although the Boyd doctrine may not have been constitutionally required, it had a historical basis, was reasonable, and was consistent with the Court's interpretation of the Bill of Rights, which was been to liberally construe personal freedoms. Furthermore, the "shock-the-conscience" test was simply unworkable, resulting in conflicting holdings in many similar Fourth and Fifth Amendment cases that had been heard by the Court. In addition, that test made it difficult for states to determine whether or not their individual admission and exclusion policies would violate the provisions of the Constitution.

B. Justice Douglas' Concurrence: Douglas believed in the principle outlined in the Weeks case, which was that if evidence seized in violation of the Fourth Amendment could be used against an accused, then the Fourth Amendment was of no use. Other theoretical remedies, like disciplinary action within the police system, does not offer the same protections as excluding evidence seized in violation of the Constitution. Furthermore, a trespass action against the offending officer by the homeowner would not provide any meaningful relief to the defendant, because it might provide for financial remedies but would not assist a defendant's position in a criminal court.

C. Justice Stewart's Memorandum: Stewart did not express a view on the constitutional issues addressed in the case, but believed that the Appellant's conviction should be reversed because Ohio Rev. Code 2905.34 was not consistent with freedom of thought and expression.

J. Dissenting Opinion: Harlan, Frankfurter, and Whittaker joined in a dissent. They found that the Court did not show judicial restraint or due regard for stare decisis. The pivotal issue before the Court was whether Ohio Rev. Code 2905.34, which made criminal the possession and control of obscene material, was "consistent with the rights of free thought and expression assured against state action by the Fourteenth Amendment." Therefore, the Court could have resolved the issue without determining the Fourth Amendment issue, because Ohio Rev. Code 2905.34 was clearly unconstitutional and provided a basis for a reversal of the conviction. Furthermore, that constitutional issue was more easily resolved that the constitutional issue that the Court decided to resolve. In addition, the dissenters pointed out that this issue was not briefed and was only argued tangentially, and that the reversal of an established criminal doctrine such as the Wolf doctrine should not have been done without a full argument. Not all of the states had abandoned the Wolf doctrine, and the issue was not whether Weeks was a better alternative, but whether the states were violating the Constitution by adhering to Wolf. The dissent believed that they were. There is supposed to be a balance between state and federal responsibility; therefore, the federal government should respect state decisions in criminal law, permit states to pursue… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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