Mapp vs. Ohio

The Case of Illegally Seized Evidence

The Issue

This case arose in 1957 when police in Cleveland forcibly entered the home of Dollree Mapp and conducted an apparently warrantless search for a bombing suspect despite Mapp's protests. No suspect was found, but police discovered a trunk of obscene pictures and books (which were prohibited by Ohio law) in Mapp's basement. Mapp was arrested for possessing the pictures, and was convicted in an Ohio court. Mapp appealed and argued that her Fourth Amendment rights had been violated by the search, and eventually took her appeal to United States Supreme Court because, at the time of the case, unlawfully seized evidence was banned from federal courts but not state courts.

The Decision

On June 19, 1961, the Supreme Court ruled (6–3) that evidence obtained in violation of the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits “unreasonable searches and seizures,” is inadmissible in state courts. Mapp never had to serve a day of her one to seven year ruling by the Ohio court system in 1958.

The Impact

The case Mapp v. Ohio impacted the type evidence admissible in court because the US Supreme Court ruled that evidence acquired through illegal search and seizure was inadmissible evidence. In so doing, it brought the federal exclusionary rule (which forbade the use of unconstitutionally obtained evidence in federal courts) to the states court system.