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Important Cases Regarding the Police and the Fourth Amendment

A few months ago, we wrote an article entitled Search and Seizure in Ohio.  That article was primarily an overview of search and seizure laws in Ohio and dealt with concepts such as probable cause and the Constitutional right to privacy.  While knowing these general concepts can be helpful, they are still rather abstract and may be difficult to understand in a practice sense.  When there is a question on how to apply law or part of the constitution to a real life situation, the result is often a Supreme Court case, either at the state or federal level.  Since we are mostly concerned with Ohio, we will discuss some cases that affect Ohio.  Some of these cases may be federal cases that also affect the other states, but some are from the Ohio Supreme Court specifically.

Mapp v. Ohio

One of the most important search and seizure cases dates all the way back to 1968, and is known as Mapp vs. Ohio.  This was actually a U.S. Supreme Court case which had already been through the Ohio Supreme Court.  This was a pivotal case because it established that police obtained evidence by violating the constitutional right to privacy, that evidence could not be used in trial.  The case went through the Ohio Supreme Court and onto the U.S. Supreme Court because there were many issues at play.  The police had been looking for, among other things, illegal gambling materials.  They entered the home without a warrant and found some illegal materials that were unrelated to the materials they were looking for.  After sorting through all of the issues involved in the case and going all the way to the Supreme Court, the legal system determined that the materials they found could ultimately not be used in trial because they did not have a warrant.  Ever since, the federally recognized rule has been that evidence has to be obtained legally to be used at trial.

Terry v. Ohio

Terry v. Ohio is arguably not so much about search and seizure as it affected situations where the police are not necessarily searching a person’s home or vehicle or business.  This case made the controversial determination that police could stop people without the same type of probable cause needed for proper search and seizure.  If the police reasonably suspect that an individual is involved in criminal activity, the police may stop and that person, and frisk them if they believe the suspected criminal is armed.  This decision was made in the late 1960’s, but it remains a topic of much legal conversation today.


As we come across more case law that affects search and seizure, especially in Ohio, we will update this article and maybe right more articles on the subject.  When you have an encounter with the police it is important to have some idea of your rights, but also remember that it cannot work in your favor to be disrespectful or confrontational to the police.  The majority of the time, the best way to handle any encounter with the police is after the fact through the Court system.  Even if you have a good case, it almost always goes much better in Court than on the ground dealing directly with the police officer.  That way, the court gets both sides of the story and you are unlikely to get a resisting charge or something similar.  If you have had an encounter with the police that left you feeling unsure, or if you know that you have been charged with a crime and you are not sure what to do, do not hesitate to call the expert lawyers at Dearie, Fischer & Martinson.