Wolf v. Colorado

338 U.S. 25
Wolf v. Colorado
Argued: October 19, 1948
Decided: June 27, 1949


Mr. Philip Hornbein, Denver, Colo., for petitioner.

Mr. James S. Henderson, Denver, Colo., for respondent.
Mr. Justice FRANKFURTER delivered the opinion of the Court.

Concurring Opinion

Mr. Justice BLACK, concurring.

In this case petitioner was convicted of a crime in a state court on evidence obtained by a search and seizure conducted in a manner that this Court has held ‘unreasonable’ and therefore in violation of the Fourth Amendment. And under a rule of evidence adopted by this Court evidence so obtained by federal officers cannot be used against defendants in federal courts. For reasons stated in my dissenting opinion in Adamson v. California, 332 U.S. 46, 68, 67 S.Ct. 1672, 1683, 91 L.Ed. 1903, 171 A.L.R. 1223. I agree with the conclusion of the Court that the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition of ‘unreasoanble searches and seizures’ is enforceable against the states. Consequently, I should be for reversal of this case if I thought the Fourth Amendment not only prohibited ‘unreasonable searches and seizures,’ but also, of itself, barred the use of evidence so unlawful obtained. But I agree with what appears to be a plain implication of the Court’s opinion that the federal exclusionary rule is not a command of the Fourth Amendment but is a judicially created rule of evidence which Congress might negate. See McNabb v. United States, 318 U.S. 332, 63 S.Ct. 608, 87 L.Ed. 819. This leads me to concur in the Court’s judgment of affirmance.

It is not amiss to repeat my belief that the Fourteenth Amendment was intended to make the Fourth Amendment in its entirety applicable to the states. The Fourth Amendment was designed to protect people against unrestrained searches and seizures by sheriffs, policemen and other law enforcement officers. Such protection is an essential in a free society. And I am unable to agree that the protection of people from over-Zealous or ruthless state officers is any less essential in a country of ‘ordered liberty’ than is the protection of people from over-zealous or ruthless federal officers. Certainly there are far more state than federal enforcement officers and their activities, up to now, have more frequently and closely touched the intimate daily lives of people than have the activities of federal officers. A state officer’s ‘knock at the door * * * as a prelude to a search, without authority of law,’ may be, as our experience shows, just as ominous to ‘ordered liberty’ as though the knock were made by a federal officer.

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