Mapp v. Ohio
Mapp v. Ohio is a landmark 1961 U.S. Supreme Court that set standards for search and seizure in a criminal prosecution.
Police had used shoddy procedures when searching the home of Dollree Mapp, arresting her. Yet the Ohio appeals court and state superior court both confirmed the plaintiff’s conviction. Mapp then took the case to the Supreme Court as a violation of her constitutional rights.
While Mapp had complained that her First Amendment right to expression was denied, the Court decided that it was her Fourth Amendment right to due process and protection from unlawful search and seizure that should be examined.
The reason this case is a landmark decision is that constitutional procedures for search and seizure were previously standard for federal court evidence but never applied to state courts. In siding with Mapp, Supreme Court justices set a higher bar for evidence introduced in state court cases.
Police in Ohio sought to search a woman’s home (Mapp) for a fugitive wanted for questioning in a bombing case. When she wouldn’t let them in, police returned with what they claimed was a search warrant and barged in. Mapp protested and tried to keep the paper police had described as a warrant but they took it away from her and arrested her.
The bomber was not found in Mapp’s house, but some incidental criminal material was found in the basement: illegal pornographic material and betting slips. She was sentenced on possession of pornography, which was illegal in Ohio.
Since police had claimed they were searching for the bomber and Mapp was not wanted on suspicion of possession of lewd materials (she also claimed the trunk of books and magazines belonged to a previous tenant, not to her), the Supreme Court found that police had overstepped their authority. The standard for search and seizure now requires the search warrant to define which items police seek and does not allow officers to venture beyond the scope of the search warrant to find a reason to arrest someone. The pornography in a trunk in Mapp’s basement could not be claimed as part of the search for the fugitive bomber.