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The exclusionary rule for illegal searches and seizures

Recently, a woman who was involved in a landmark U.S. Supreme Court case several decades ago involving search and seizure law died. Her death has led to a looking back at her landmark case.

The name of the case was Mapp v. Ohio, and the Supreme Court made its ruling in the case in 1961. In the case, the woman was challenging a criminal conviction that had been made against her. The conviction came after police found purportedly obscene material in the home the woman lived in after forcing their way into the home. There were questions as to whether police had a warrant to search the home.

The Supreme Court ultimately decided to throw out the woman's conviction. What made the case a landmark one is a ruling the Court made regarding the exclusionary rule in their decision.

The exclusionary rule holds that, generally, courts are to deem evidence inadmissible if it was obtained through certain types of wrongful conduct by police, such as illegal searches and seizures. In the decision in Mapp v. Ohio, the Supreme Court ruled that the exclusionary rule does not just apply to federal courts, but also applies to all state courts. Thus, it made the exclusionary rule the law of the land for all state criminal courts.

The exclusionary rule plays an important role in protecting individuals' Fourth Amendment rights regarding searches and seizures, as it prevents authorities from gaining evidentiary benefits from engaging in improper conduct regarding searches and seizures.

Given that issues regarding whether a given search/seizure was proper sometimes arise in drug crime cases, the exclusionary rule sometimes ends up playing a pretty big role in drug crime cases. If evidence in a drug crime case is found to be inadmissible under the exclusionary rule, it can drastically change the case.

Now, it is worth noting that exclusionary rule law is somewhat complex, as there are exceptions to the rule.

Attorneys can help answer questions drug crime defendants have about the exclusionary rule and whether the rule could potentially apply to any of the evidence prosecutors have brought forth in their case.

Source: The New York Times, "Dollree Mapp, Who Defied Police Search in Landmark Case, Is Dead," William Yardley, Dec. 9, 2014

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