Wolf v. Colorado Case Brief
Summary of Wolf v. Colorado 338 U.S. 25 (1949)
Statement of the case: The petitioner contends that evidence gathered and used in his conviction by state officials was in violation of Due process of law required by the 14th Amendment.
Procedure below: Criminal prosecution in a State court was sustained by the Colorado Supreme Court. The U. S. Supreme Court granted certiorari.
Statement of facts: There were no facts given in the casebook.
Legal issue: Does a conviction in a state court deny due process if evidence was submitted in the state proceeding that would not have been admitted in a federal court under the 4th Amendment?
Holding: In a prosecution for a state crime in a state court, the 14th Amendment does not forbid the admission of evidence obtained by an unreasonable search and seizure.
Reasoning: (Frankfurter, J.) No. In a prosecution for a state crime in a state court, the 14th Amendment does not forbid the admission of evidence obtained by an unreasonable search and seizure. Weeks v. U.S. barred the use of evidence secured through an illegal search and seizure in federal prosecutions. This holding was a judicial implication, and was not derived from the requirements of the 4th Amendment or Congressional policy. Subsequently, 30 states rejected Weeks, and have created other forms of protection for the right of privacy. The states offer private actions, internal police discipline, and public opinion to protect individuals. The fact that states rely on other methods of protection that if consistently enforced are equally effective deterrents does not mean that those protections fall below minimum due process standards. Affirmed, for P.
Concurrence: (Black, J.) The federal exclusionary rule is not a command of the 4th Amendment, but is a judicially created rule of evidence.
Dissent: (Murphy, J.) Without exclusion, there is no sanction. District attorneys can’t be counted on to police themselves. A claim of trespass will carry with it insufficient damages to act as a true deterrent, or even if there are sufficient damages, an officer’s finances may make the officer judgment- proof anyway. These are illusory remedies.
Dissent: (Douglas, J.) Without exclusion, there is no sanction.
Critical summary: Overruled in Mapp v. Ohio, thankfully so!