The 14th amendment ratified in 1868 states that “no state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States” or “deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law”. The Fourth Amendment protects the “right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures”. These two amendments to the Bill of Rights helped an Ohio appeal to overturn state ruling in the case of Mapp v. Ohio (1961).

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On May 23, 1957, three Cleveland police visited Mapp’s home to question her regarding an informant’s statement related to a bombing incident. When the officers arrived at her home, she would not let them enter and was not required to because they had no search warrant. They surveilled the house. Three hours later four additional officers appeared at the home and again tried to enter. Police then forced entry at two or more doors. The appellant asked to see their warrant. They held up a document which she grabbed and they forcibly snatched away. They then handcuffed her for belligerence. They conducted an unlawful search of the entire premises and discovered obscene materials during this search (Justia, 1961).

The prosecution did not present a search warrant at the trial and did not explain the absence of one. There was significant doubt as to whether there ever was any search warrant. The Ohio Supreme Court believed that the conviction should be reversed because the methods used in obtaining the evidence offended “a sense of justice” (Justia, 1961).

In an appeal from the Ohio Supreme Court, the appellant, Mapp, had been convicted of knowing possession of lewd books, pictures, and photographs in violation of Ohio § 2905. The Supreme Court of Ohio held her conviction to be valid regardless of the unlawful seizure of evidence obtained during an unlawful search of the defendant’s home (Justia, 1961). Mapp’s conviction was overturned. Ohio’s justices found that States were obligated to exclude evidence seized in violation of the Fourth Amendment. Writing the opinion for the majority of the court, Justice Tom Clark summarized: “We hold that all evidence obtained by searches and seizures in violation of the Constitution [is] inadmissible in a state court…. Were it otherwise…the assurance against unreasonable…searches and seizures would be [meaningless].”

The United States Supreme Court has often and consistently supported the constitutional requirement that evidence obtain through search and seizure must be legally obtained to meet the test of admissible evidence. (Oyez, 2017). This applies to any material entered into evidence in any court in the United States, regardless of jurisdiction: local, state, federal. Warrants must be obtained from a judge prior to a search. A warrant can only be issued based probable cause, “supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized,” as stated in the Fourth Amendment. If there is no warrant, the material obtained cannot be used in court. Warrants must be very explicit in terms of the type and location of the evidence to be searched for. Items seized outside the scope of the warrant are inadmissible as evidence (Justia, 1961).

For investigations of government employees, compelled statements cannot be used in prosecution. This would violate both the Fifth and Fourteenth amendments, demonstrated in the 1967 Supreme Court ruling of Garrity vs New Jersey, in which employees were told that if they did not make a statement they would lose their jobs. When they did make statements, it was under threat of termination and this violated their right Fifth Amendment right of protection against self-incrimination. Their convictions were overturned upon appeal (, 1967).

The 14th amendment also applies to electronic surveillance. The 4th amendment requires that warrants be issued by an impartial judge and that they must also have a reasonable basis to issue a warrant: location of the search, objects and people to be sought. Any speech overheard is considered to have been given freely. Electronic surveillance is admissible without compelling the defendants to speak. The Supreme Court’s interpretation of amendments in matters relating to personal privacy within the spectrum of civil rights has widened. Electronic surveillance is given credence as a means of improving national security, outweighing the limits it imposes on citizens’ personal freedoms. The technology employed to enhance surveillance poses an ever-increasing threat to personal privacy (Yale, 1983).

  • (1967). Garrity v. New Jersey. 385 U.S. 493 (1967). Case text. Retrieved from
  • Justia. Mapp vs. Ohio. Retrieved from
  • Mapp v. Ohio. (n.d.). Oyez. Retrieved March 21, 2017, from
  • Yale University. (1983). Electronic Surveillance: Unlawful Invasion of Privacy or Justifiable Law Enforcement. Retrieved from