MANGINO: A landmark decision marks its 60th anniversary
This year marks the 60th anniversary of the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision in Mapp v. Ohio. In 1957, Cleveland, Ohio police officers went to the home of Dollree Mapp looking for a suspect in a criminal investigation. She refused to let the police in without a warrant.
The police left, and when they returned, they were armed with a “fake” warrant.
As a result of the police misconduct the Supreme Court provided a remedy - the exclusion of illegally obtained evidence from admission in a criminal prosecution - resulting in a dismissal of the charges.
Forty-seven years before Mapp, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that evidence collected in federal prosecutions that violated the Fourth Amendment ban against illegal search and seizures would be excluded from trial.
The rationale behind the exclusionary rule was to deter police misconduct.
Many Supreme Court observers suggested that the Mapp decision would inundate courts with challenges and the guilty would go free in droves. Over the last 60 years, the Supreme Court has whittled away at the exclusionary rule.
In 2009, the assault on the exclusionary rule continued. The Supreme Court found that evidence confiscated as the result of an arrest that was the product of an expired warrant was not subject to exclusion. The court found that negligence by one police department in failing to remove a warrant did not contaminate evidence obtained by a different police department that was unaware of the invalid arrest warrant.
In 2016, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas wrote an opinion in an Utah case ruling that evidence obtained from an unlawful police stop would not be excluded from court because the link between the stop and the evidence’s discovery was “attenuated” by the discovery of an outstanding warrant during the stop.
What the exclusionary rule accomplished was a higher standard of police training and in turn police work.
The law enforcement training that grew out of the Mapp decision has enhanced the quality of police investigations and protected the rights of individual citizens. The exclusionary rule’s contribution to the criminal justice system cannot be overstated.
Matthew T. Mangino is of counsel with Luxenberg, Garbett, Kelly & George P.C. His book “The Executioner’s Toll, 2010” was released by McFarland Publishing. You can reach him at www.mattmangino.com and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewTMangino.