In 1957, future boxing promoter Don King’s house was bombed. Responding to a tip regarding the location of one of the suspects in the bombing, three plainclothes policemen visited the Cleveland-area home of Dollree Mapp. The officers knocked on the door and asked to enter the house. Mapp refused to allow them to enter and contacted her lawyer, who instructed her not to allow them to search the home without a search warrant.

The plainclothes policemen later forcibly entered Mapp’s home. When she asked to see a warrant, Sgt. Carl Delau held up a piece of paper that Mapp grabbed from Delau’s hands and stuffed under her shirt. Mapp was then handcuffed and Delau retrieved the paper. The officers proceeded to search Mapp’s entire residence for the suspect. Their search resulted in the discovery of risqué books, sketches of nude figures, and “lewd and lascivious” photographs.

Dollree Mapp was charged with possession of obscene material. She was convicted in the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas even though no valid search warrant was produced in court and no reason was given for the lack of a search warrant. Ohio’s Eighth District Court of Appeals and the Ohio Supreme Court upheld her conviction.

In 1961, the U.S. Supreme Court heard Mapp’s appeal. The ACLU was involved as amicus; Bernard Berkman argued the ACLU’s position. The Supreme Court ruled in Mapp’s favor, stating that the Fourth Amendment’s protections against illegal search and seizure applied to proceedings in state courts as well as proceedings in federal courts.

Read an ACLU of Ohio briefing paper about the case.

View the original police report.

Read the U.S. Supreme Court decision.

Listen to Bernard Berkman’s oral argument before the U.S. Supreme Court here.

C-SPAN has featured Mapp v. Ohio in its Landmark Cases series. View the full list of cases here:

Date filed

October 26, 1959