Search and seizure is a vital and problematic component of police and investigative work in almost every facet of law enforcement. The components involved in mandating accuracy, fairness, and justice must be governed. If those components are not governed by an outside source, then the opportunities for corruption, inaccuracy and dishonesty are great thereby endangering the general public’s basic civil rights of protection. If police, local, or state law enforcement are not bound by search and seizure laws and procedures, innumerable legal problems and civil challenges are almost guaranteed to arise and the courts would be overflowing with cases. In this case analysis, we will inquire into the protection that the Exclusionary Rule provides and the confidence that citizens can have in it and the Constitution of the United States from illegal search and seizure by law enforcement personnel.
In a case that was heard before the United States Supreme Court, Mapp v. Ohio (1961), the defendant, Mrs. Dollree Mapp was convicted for possession of pornographic material during a questionable search of her home for harboring a bombing suspect as well as some gambling equipment (Mapp v. Ohio (1961). The local police showed her a “piece of paper” insinuating that it was an actual warrant to enter and search her home. She snatched the paper and stuffed it in her dress.
The police handcuffed her and charged her with being “belligerent” and for possession of pornographic materials that they found in a suitcase that she says was lent to a boarding person. Mrs. Mapp was arrested, prosecuted, found guilty and sentenced for the possession of the material although, no search warrant from the police or court was ever produced during her trial (Mapp v. Ohio). Her appeal was based on the 4th Amendment protecting United States citizens from “unreasonable searches and seizures” and the protection of the Bill of Rights under the 14th amendment for citizens (Dempsey, & Forst, 2011).
The question at hand: was the search and seizure of material of Mapp’s home within the legal bounds of the police and was the evidence permissible in court under Ohio state law and criminal procedure? If the Ohio Criminal Code did not exclude the illicitly gained evidence, did Ohio law unsuccessfully provide Dollree Mapp her 4th Amendment protection against “unreasonable search and seizures”? Should the Exclusionary Rule apply to Mapp vs. Ohio? In Rochin vs. California (1952), three California state police officers entered the petitioner’s home and bedroom on suspicion of selling narcotics. On the bedside table were two pills which he swallowed. Police took him to the hospital where they pumped his stomach through emetic procedure and he vomited up two pills which were proven to contain morphine, a forbidden possessed substance in the state of California.
The pills were admitted into evidence in California State Court and he was convicted of violating the state law forbidding the possession of morphine. The decision was affirmed by the District Court of Appeals. However, in the United States Supreme Court, the conviction was reversed bases on the fact that the pills were obtained by methods violating the Due Process clause 14th Amendment (Rochin v. California). Could the Exclusionary Rule be in effect in this case? Lastly, in Weeks vs. the United States (1914), the basis for the previous two examples, again we see that the local police, state, or federal law enforcement overstep their constitutional boundaries and search and seize evidence that they have no warrant to seize.
This is a case where the petitioner was not even at his residence when it was searched by the local and federal authorities; no warrant was served in obtaining tickets and mail enticing citizens into a sordid type of lottery scheme. An indictment was returned against the plaintiff even though the police had found his extra key, with help of a neighbor, and entered his premises without a warrant (Weeks v. United States). They found papers and tickets and held them as evidence along with other papers pertinent to the investigation.
Those evidentiary items were turned over to the United States Marshall’s office. The Marshalls later returned and asked to be let into the apartment. A suspected boarder let them in and they searched and seized certain letters and envelopes found in a drawer of Mr. Week’s wardrobe. Neither the U.S. Marshall nor the local police officer with him possessed an official warrant from the court (Weeks v. United States). Given that neither the local police nor the United States Marshall’s office had authority through a court ordered warrant to neither search nor seize Mr. Week’s property, a counter motion was filed with the Court to return said removed items. While an incidental seizure of incriminating papers such as fraudulent lottery tickets and papers pertaining to such and their use as evidence may be logically justified, that rule does not justify the seizure and retention of Mr. Week’s letters, envelopes and other properties considering they were acquired in violation of Mr. Week’s 4th Amendment rights as United States citizen (Dempsey, & Forst, 2011). Mr. Weeks filed in time with the courts the correct appeal and request for his papers that were obtained without warrant. The court honored his request seeing that there was no official or certified warrant for the search and seizure of his belongings. The courts ruled in Mr. Weeks’ favor and granted him relief in his request.
The efforts of the local, regional and federal courts to bring the guilty of crimes to punishment, shouldn’t be aided by sacrifice of the imminent principles that have been forged in the sacrifice suffering and loss of those who have fought for the fundament law of our homeland. We must, as a land of lawful citizens, hold our police and federal authorities to a higher standard. Additionally, we most certainly must hold them to our laws and protections under the law. Without those protections, we will become a land of tyranny, which our forefathers fought valiantly and supremely against for our complete freedom. The fact of the matter is that a law enforcement official, whether local, state or federal, must have a court certified search warrant in order to obtain evidence that will stick within a suspected perpetrator’s household, automobile or person. Without the constant and diligent protections, our nation will be subject to tyrannous and dictatorship type leaders. References
Dempsey, J. S., & Forst, L. S. (2011). Police (2nd ed.). Clifton Park, NY: Delmar Cengage Learning.
Mapp v. Ohio (1961). (2008). Retrieved from
http://www.infoplease.com/us/supreme- court/cases/ar19.html Mapp v. Ohio Case Briefs. (n.d). Retrieved from http://www.casebriefs.com/blog/law/criminal-procedure/criminal-procedure-keyed-to-saltzburg/searches-and-seizures-of-persons-and-things/mapp-v-ohio-3/ Rochin v. California – 342 U.S. 165 (1952). (n.d) Retrieved from http://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/342/165/ Weeks v. United States –
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