Search and Seizure: Mapp V. Ohio
Search and Seizure: Mapp v. Ohio is the story of one of the most iconic cases in the history of the United States Supreme Court. The story might seem made for TV – after all, it’s got a bomb, gambling, a world famous boxing promoter, a determined heroine and a cop who breaks the rules when they get in his way – but to people that study the Constitution, what makes Mapp v. Ohio really exciting is the 4th Amendment.
The case of Mapp v. Ohio might seem like a story that was made for TV. It’s got a bomb, gambling, a world famous boxing promoter, a determined heroine and a cop who breaks the rules when they get in his way. But to people that study the Constitution, what makes Mapp v. Ohio really exciting is the 4th Amendment.
On May 20, 1957, a bomb went off at the Cleveland home of Donald King. He would later gain worldwide fame as Don King, boxing promoter for Muhammad Ali and other champions, but at the time the police knew him as a man with a record for running the numbers game, an illegal lottery.
Police were tipped off that a man implicated in the bombing might be hiding out at the home of Dollree Mapp, a woman known to police and suspected of being involved in gambling herself. So when they knocked on the door of her Shaker Heights house, they expected a fight. They just had no idea how far that fight would go.
Mapp knew her rights and demanded to see a warrant and, when the police couldn’t produce one, she refused to let them into her house. Hours later they returned. Still without a warrant, they broke in through a window, searched her house and found the suspect. They also found pornographic drawings, and arrested Ms. Mapp on obscenity charges.
Police are supposed to obtain warrants if they want to search a place without the consent of the occupant. But at the time of Mapp’s arrest, evidence discovered even in the course of an illegal search was routinely used at trial in some states. Mapp thought that was wrong and was determined to fight what she believed to be an injustice. And so she did.
“I had to stand up for my rights,” she said. “I could not just ignore this. If the search was illegal, then you got the law on your side.”
It turned out it was. Mapp v. Ohio was a landmark decision which determined that evidence obtain illegally by the police is not admissible in state courts.