Mapp v. Ohio (1961) | Definition

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee


Course: Introduction / Procedural Law

Mapp v. Ohio (1961) is a landmark SCOTUS decision in which the Court expanded the exclusionary rule to state courts.

Mapp v. Ohio (1961) is a landmark Supreme Court decision that has had a profound impact on the criminal justice system in the United States. The case involved a woman named Dollree Mapp, who was convicted of possession of obscene material after Cleveland, Ohio, police conducted an illegal search of her home. Mapp appealed her conviction, arguing that the evidence obtained in the search should not have been used against her at trial because it was obtained illegally.

At the time of Mapp’s conviction, the exclusionary rule – which held that evidence obtained illegally could not be used in court – only applied to federal cases. However, Mapp’s lawyers argued that the exclusionary rule should also apply to state cases in order to protect the Fourth Amendment rights of all citizens. The Supreme Court ultimately agreed with this argument, holding that the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures is a fundamental right that is applicable to the states through the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

The Mapp decision was a major victory for advocates of civil liberties and due process, as it significantly expanded the reach of the exclusionary rule and ensured that illegally obtained evidence could not be used against criminal defendants in state court. The decision also had a broader impact on the criminal justice system as a whole, as it increased the power of the judiciary to oversee law enforcement and ensure that police officers acted within the bounds of the law.

However, the Mapp decision was not without controversy. Some critics argued that the exclusionary rule was too harsh, as it could allow guilty defendants to go free simply because of a technicality in the way the evidence was obtained. Others argued that the decision weakened law enforcement’s ability to combat crime, as police officers might be deterred from conducting searches and seizures for fear of violating the Fourth Amendment.

Despite these criticisms, the Mapp decision remains a landmark case in the history of American jurisprudence. It is widely regarded as a key victory for civil liberties and due process and has helped to shape the way that law enforcement officers and the courts interact in the United States.

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Last Modified: 04/08/2023

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