Brief Fact Summary. Police officers sought a bombing suspect and evidence of the bombing at the petitioner, Miss Mapp’s (the “petitioner”) house. After failing to gain entry on an initial visit, the officers returned with what purported to be a search warrant, forcibly entered the residence, and conducted a search in which obscene materials were discovered. The petitioner was tried and convicted for these materials.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. All evidence discovered as a result of a search and seizure conducted in violation of the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution (“Constitution”) shall be inadmissible in State court proceedings.
Issue. Whether evidence discovered during a search and seizure conducted in violation of the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution shall be admissible in a State court?
Held. Justice Tom Clark (“J. Clark”) filed the majority opinion. No, the exclusionary rule applies to evidence obtained in violation of the Fourth Amendment’s search and seizure clause in all State prosecutions. Since the Fourth Amendment’s right of privacy has been declared enforceable against the States through the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, the same sanction of exclusion is also enforceable against them. The purpose of the exclusionary rule is to deter illegally obtaining evidence and to compel respect for the constitutional guarantee in the only effective manner. Otherwise, a State, by admitting illegally obtained evidence, disobeys the Constitution that it has sworn to uphold. A federal prosecutor may make no use of illegally obtained evidence, but a State prosecutor across the street may, although he supposedly is operating under the enforceable prohibitions of the same Amendment. If the criminal is to go free, then it must be the law that sets him free. Our government is the potent, omnipresent teacher. For good or for ill, it teaches the whole people by its example. If the government becomes a lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for law.
Dissent. Justice John Harlan (“J. Harlan”) filed a dissenting opinion joined by Justice Felix Frankfurter (“J. Frankfurter”) and Justice Charles Whittaker (“J. Whittaker”). A recent study shows that one half of the States still adhere to the common-law non-exclusionary rule. The main concern is not the desirability of the rule, but whether the States should be forced to follow it. This Court should continue to forbear from fettering the States with an adamant rule which may embarrass them in coping with their own peculiar problems in criminal law enforcement.
Justice Hugo Black (“J. Black”) filed a concurring opinion. When 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.
Justice William Douglas (“J. Douglas”) filed a concurring opinion. He believed this to be an appropriate case in which to put an end to the asymmetry which Wolf imported into the law.
Discussion. This case explicitly overrules Wolf v. Colorado, 338 U.S. 25 (1949). The federal exclusionary rule now applies to the States through application of the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution. All illegally obtained evidence under the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution must now be excluded.