Mapp v. Ohio (1961)

In Mapp v. Ohio (1961)

The Supreme Court ruled that Dollree Mapp had broken Ohio law by having pornographic material in her custody. (Gee 121).


In 1957, police agents searched her home for gambling-related supplies. The search was conducted without a legitimate search warrant, and despite Mapp's presence on the scene, he was not allowed to speak with his lawyer. To Mapp's astonishment, the paper the officers had claimed to be a search warrant turned out not to be one. She used the justification that the evidence was illegally acquired and thus inadmissible in support of her appeal. From the search, evidence of the pornographic materials was obtained and later used as a basis for her conviction. The Supreme overturned the conviction citing the Fourth Amendment which prohibited the state and the federal courts from relying on evidence derived from illegal search and seizures. The court had members composed of anti-constitutionalists and hard-core liberals like John Harlan and Hugo Black (Ulmer 131).

Impact and Controversies

This ruling was a cause of controversies between the opponents and the proponents of the exclusionary rule. The latter claimed that it was a sufficient means of guaranteeing the freedom from illegal searches while the former argued that criminals should not go scot-free because of officers fearing to violate the constitution.

Changes in Criminal Law

This Supreme Court ruling brought changes in the criminal law. Previously, the exclusionary rule applied to the federal courts as well as states that found it appropriate. The case, however, made the law applicable to all states as a measure of preventing police officers from obtaining pieces of evidence in an illegal manner. The court's decision to rule in favor of Mapp further resulted in the incorporation of the Equal Protection Clause into the Bill of Rights (Redlich 787). Based on history, the evidence in the federal cases that had been obtained illegally could not be used against the defendant although this did not apply in states. Failure to overturn the conviction would be unfair as this would promote law-breaking by the police officers who have the responsibility of enforcing it.

Ensuring Justice and Police Accountability

This case is behind the mounting pressure on the police department to ensure that the investigations carried out are profound and within the confines of the law. It is, therefore, true to argue that individuals should be given no more than what is guaranteed in the constitution while to the police officers, no less than the entitlement of the honest law. Besides, the courts should have the judicial integrity which is paramount for the administration of justice. The right to privacy in the 4th amendment is enforceable against states based on the due process of the 14th. Besides, it is enforceable against the states based on the same exclusion sanction applied to the Federal Government. The exclusionary rule is an integral part of the 4th and the 14th amendments and acts as a logical dictate of the prior cases, besides making good sense. It is, therefore, true that when a state admits the evidence which was seized unlawfully, it openly shows disobedience to the same federal constitution which it should uphold.


Gee, Harvey. "The Story of Mapp v. Ohio." JL Soc'y 8 (2007): 121.

Redlich, Norman. "Are There Certain Rights Retained by the People." NYUL Rev. 37 (1962): 787.

Ulmer, S. Sidney. "The longitudinal behavior of Hugo Lafayette Black: Parabolic support for civil liberties, 1937-1971." Fla. St. UL Rev. 1 (1973): 131.

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