Wolf v. Colorado 338 U.S. 25, 69 S.Ct. 1359, L.Ed. 1782 (1949)
Martin had a back-alley
abortion, which was illegal at the time under Colorado State law. There
were medical complications and she ended up in the hospital where she was
questioned by police. She implicated Dr. Montgomery and Dr. Wolf.
The police entered Wolf's
office without a search warrant and seized some evidence, including a list
of Wolf's patients.
The police then used the
list to contact other women who admitted under interrogation that Wolf
had performed abortions on them.
Wolf was arrested and charged
with conspiracy to perform abortions.
At trial, Wolf argued that the
evidence of the patient list, and also the interrogations of the patients
was an illegal search and seizure
under the 4th Amendment, and therefore could not
be used against him.
The trial judge allowed the
evidence to be admitted.
The Trial Court found Wolf
guilty. He appealed.
The Colorado Supreme Court
upheld the conviction. Wolf appealed.
The Colorado Supreme Court
found that even if the search had been illegal, the evidence was still
admissible under Colorado State law.
The US Supreme Court upheld
The US Supreme Court found
that the 4th Amendment
doesn't specifically require exclusion as the remedy for
evidence found to have been illegally obtained.
The Court agreed that if a
State affirmatively sanctioned warrantless search and seizures, that
would be clearly unconstitutional, but that wasn't the case here.
The Court found that that
although exclusion of evidence one effective way of discouraging and
preventing unreasonable searches, there exist other methods that can
achieve the same effect while complying with the minimal standards set by
the Due Process Clause.
As an example, the Court
suggested civil remedies, such as "the internal discipline of the
police, under the eyes of an alert public opinion."
Other examples would be
civil lawsuits, criminal prosecutions, or 'the political process'.
In fact, the 4th
Amendment says nothing about the
remedy for an illegal search and seizure. Exclusion only
became the Federal standard after Weeks. v. United States (232 U.S. 383 (1914)).
Now known as the Weeks
The Court noted that if Wolf
had been in Federal Court, the evidence would have not been admissible.
However, the Court was not ready to say that the 14th
Amendment required the States to
exactly match the protections of the Bill of Rights and the Federal
The Court felt that the Due
Process Clause was satisfied as long
as the State had some equally effective method for achieving a fair
Aka the fundamental
At this time, about 2/3rds
of the States and a number of other countries did not follow the Weeks
Doctrine, so it was reasonable to
argue that you could get a fair trial without the benefit of exclusion.
This decision was later
overturned by Mapp v. Ohio (367
U.S. 643 (1961)).