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By a 6-3 vote, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Mapp’s conviction. In his opinion for the Court, Justice Tom Clark wrote: “Today, we once again examine Wolf’s constitutional documentation of the right to privacy free from unreasonable state intrusion, and, after its dozen years on our books, are led by it to close the only courtroom door remaining open to evidence secured by official lawlessness in flagrant abuse of that basic right, reserved to all persons as a specific guarantee against that very same unlawful conduct. We hold that all evidence obtained by searches and seizures in violation of the Constitution is, by that same authority, inadmissible in a state court.” In addition, he asserts, “… our holding that the exclusionary rule is an essential part of both the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments is not only the logical dictate of prior cases, but it also makes good sense. There is no war between the Constitution and common sense. Presently, a federal prosecutor may make no use of evidence illegally seized, but a state’s attorney across the street may, although he supposedly is operating under the enforceable prohibitions of the same Amendment. Thus the state, by admitting evidence unlawfully seized, serves to encourage disobedience to the Federal Constitution which it is bound to uphold.”Finally, Justice Clark writes: “There are those who say, as did Justice (then Judge) [Benjamin] Cardozo, that under our constitutional exclusionary doctrine ‘[t]he criminal is to go free because the constable has blundered.’ … In some cases this will undoubtedly be the result. But, as was said in Elkins, ‘there is another consideration — the imperative of judicial integrity.’ … The criminal goes free, if he must, but it is the law that sets him free. … Nothing can destroy a government more quickly than its failure to observe its own laws, or worse, its disregard of the charter of its own existence.”


Justice Hugo Black concurred and in a concurring opinion wrote: “Reflection on the problem … in the light of cases coming before the Court since Wolf, has led me to conclude that when the Fourth Amendment’s ban against unreasonable searches and seizures is considered together with the Fifth Amendment’s ban against compelling self-incrimination, a constitutional basis emerges which not only justifies but actually requires the exclusionary rule.”

Justice William O. Douglas also concurred and in a concurring opinion wrote: “As stated in the Weeks case, if evidence seized in violation of the Fourth Amendment can be used against an accused, ‘his right to be secure against such searches and seizures is of no value, and … might as well be stricken from the Constitution.’ ”

Justice John Marshall Harlan III dissented and in a dissenting opinion, joined by Justices Felix Frankfurter and Charles Whittaker, wrote: “In overruling the Wolf case, the Court, in my opinion, has forgotten the sense of judicial restraint which, with due regard for stare decisis, is one element that should enter into deciding whether a past decision of this Court should be overruled. Apart from that I also believe that the Wolf rule represents sounder Constitutional doctrine than the new rule which now replaces it.” In addition, Harlan asserted that the federal system permits the states to manage their problems of criminal law enforcement without the Supreme Court’s stamp of approval or disapproval: “Problems of criminal law enforcement vary widely from State to State. … For us the question remains, as it has always been, one of state power, not one of passing judgment on the wisdom of one state course or another. In my view, this Court should continue to forbear from fettering the States with an adamant rule which may embarrass them in coping with their own peculiar problems in criminal law enforcement.”