Exclusionary rule



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At least since 1914 (Weeks v. U.S.), judicial policy has prohibited the admission of illegally seized evidence at trials in federal courts. This is the so-called exclusionary rule. Essentially, evidence (improperly obtained) gained as a result of an illegal act by police, no matter how telling, cannot be used by prosecutors at the trial of a person from whom it was seized. This includes evidence obtained by police in violation of a suspect’s Miranda rights or of the Fourth Amendment.” - American Government & Politics Today, 2007-2008 Edition
What is the main point of the exclusionary rule?

What might critics of the exclusionary rule argue?




Mapp v. Ohio, 1961

Facts of the Case:

Ms. Dollree Mapp and her daughter lived in Cleveland, Ohio. In May 1957, after receiving information that an individual wanted in connection with a recent bombing was hiding in Mapp's house, three Cleveland police knocked on her door and demanded entrance. Mapp called her attorney and subsequently refused to let the police in when they failed to produce a search warrant. After several hours of surveillance and the arrival of more officers, the police again sought entrance to the house. Although Mapp did not allow them to enter, they gained access by forcibly opening at least one door. Once the police were inside the house, Mapp confronted them and demanded to see their warrant. One of the officers held up a piece of paper claiming it was a search warrant. Mapp grabbed the paper but an officer recovered it and handcuffed Mapp "because she had been belligerent". Dragging Mapp upstairs, officers proceeded to search not only her room, but also her daughter's bedroom, the kitchen, dinette, living room, and basement.

In the course of the basement search, police found a trunk containing "lewd and lascivious" books, pictures, and photographs. As a result, Mapp was arrested for violating Ohio's criminal law prohibiting the possession of obscene materials. At trial, the court found her guilty of the violation based on the evidence presented by the police. When Mapp's attorney questioned the officers about the alleged warrant and asked for it to be produced, the police were unable or unwilling to do so. Nonetheless, Mapp was found guilty and sentenced to 1 to 7 years in the Ohio Women's Reformatory.

Upon her conviction, Mapp appealed her case to the Supreme Court of Ohio… Mapp's appeal was denied and her conviction upheld. Mapp appealed again to the Supreme Court of the United States….

Amendment IV - The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.


  1. In your opinion, was Dollree Mapp justified in denying the police entrance to her house? Explain your reasoning.


  1. Were the confiscated materials protected by the Fourth Amendment? Explain.


  1. Predict the outcome of this case. If you were a Supreme Court Justice, how would you rule? Write a 1 paragraph opinion that justifies your decision.


Case: Mapp v. Ohio, 1961

Key Excerpts from the Majority Opinion :
The case was decided six to three.  Justice Clark delivered the opinion of the Court.

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. Were it otherwise . . . the freedom from state invasions of privacy would be so ephemeral and so neatly severed from its conceptual nexus with the freedom from all brutish means of coercing evidence as not to merit this Court's high regard as a freedom "implicit in the concept of ordered liberty." . . . in extending the substantive protections of due process to all constitutionally unreasonable searches—state or federal—it was logically and constitutionally necessary that the exclusion doctrine—an essential part of the right to privacy-be also insisted upon as an essential ingredient of the right. . . .

. . . our holding that the exclusionary rule is an essential part of both the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments is not only the logical dictate of prior cases, but it also makes very good sense. There is no war between the Constitution and common sense.

Federal-state cooperation in the solution of crime under constitutional standards will be promoted, if only by recognition of their now mutual obligation to respect the same fundamental criteria in their approaches.

There are those who say, as did Justice (then Judge) Cardozo, that under our constitutional exclusionary doctrine "[t]he criminal is to go free because the constable has blundered." . . . In some cases this will undoubtedly be the result. But, as was said in Elkins, "there is another consideration-the imperative of judicial integrity." . . . The criminal goes free, if he must, but it is the law that sets him free. Nothing can destroy a government more quickly than its failure to observe its own laws, or worse, its disregard of the charter of its own existence.

. . . Our decision, founded on reason and truth, gives to the individual no more than that which the Constitution guarantees him, to the police officer no less than that to which honest law enforcement is entitled, and, to the courts, that judicial integrity so necessary in the true administration of justice.




  1. The majority identifies several reasons why evidence gained in an illegal search cannot legally be used against a defendant during trial. Why do they say that such a rule is constitutionally necessary? 



  1. The majority insists that to allow illegally seized evidence during trial would destroy the government. Explain.  



  1. What foundation of U.S. government is the Court referring to when it states, "Nothing can destroy a government more quickly than its . . . disregard of the character of it own existence"? 



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