Constitutional Policing

Constitutional Policing
Aaron M. Green
CRJ 201
Professor:  Deborah Tremblay
September 15, 2014

The police have been empowered by the government with the power to investigate and make arrests in connections to violations of law. The police must abide by the law in their pursuit to uphold law. The courts in the United States examine police, procedure and behavior, and can overturn, overrule or modify violations of law and procedure that do not adhere to due process. Examples of the courts influence on policing procedures can be found in cases such as Weeks vs. United States (1914), Silverthorn Lumber vs. United States (1920), and Mapp vs. Ohio (1961). If the issues are examined one can see the precedents the courts used to arrive at their conclusion and how they have affected policing in the United States today.

In the case of Weeks vs. United States it was argued that police did violate Mr. Weeks Fourth Amendment right as set forth by the United States Constitution. The Fourth Amendment states “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable search and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched and the persons or things seized.” (National Archive and Rercords Administration, 2014) The complaint filed by Mr. Weeks stated “That on the 21st day of December, 1911, while plaintiff was absent at his daily vocation certain officers of the government whose names are to plaintiff unknown, unlawfully and without warrant or authority so to do, broke open the door to plaintiff's said home and seized all of his books, letters, money, papers, notes, evidences of indebtedness, stock, certificates, insurance policies, deeds, abstracts, and other muniments of title, bonds, candies, clothes and other property in said home, and this in violation of Sections 11 and 23 of the Constitution of Missouri and of the 4th and 5th Amendments to the Constitution of the United States.” (WEEKS vs. UNITED STATES, 1914) The court ordered the district attorney to return the property not involved with the case to the defendant but that they could retain property deemed pertinent to the case. When Mr. Weeks had his day in court he again disputed evidence presented against him had been gathered in violation of his constitutional rights, and which point the courts overruled and the case was continued. The case was brought before the Supreme Court where it was found that the papers were seized by the officers in violation of Mr. Weeks Fourth Amendment rights and when he petitioned for the return of his property the state courts did commit a prejudicial error.

In the case of Silverthorn Lumber vs. United States again there were accusations of law enforcement violating the defendants Fourth Amendment rights. In this case the Silverthorn’s were arrested at their homes on the morning of February 25, 1919, while the Silverthorns were in custody. Agent’s from the Department of Justice and the United States Marshals made a search without a warrant of the Silverthorn’s office in which they collected books, papers and documents. The evidence collected was photographed and copied by authorities. After a complaint by the Sliverthorns the originals were returned, however the copies were retained by authorities. New charges were filed against the Silverthorns from evidence collected from the copies and subpoenas were issued to produce the original documents. The courts ordered the subpoenas be complied with in spite of the fact the court’s ruling that the originals had been seized in violation of the parties’ constitutional rights. It is clear the authorities could not have arrived at the information needed to render charges against the Silverthorns without their illegal copies of wrongfully collected evidence thus making the copies “fruit of the...

References: MAPP vs. OHIO, 367 U.S. 643 (Supreme Court of United States. June 19, 1961). Retrieved September 15, 2014, from,15&as_vis=1
National Archive and Rercords Administration. (2014, September 15). Bill of Rights. Retrieved September 15, 2014, from The Characters of Freedom :
SILVERTHORNE LUMBER vs. UNITED STATES, 251 U.S. 385 (Supreme Court of United States. January 26, 1920). Retrieved September 15, 2014, from,15&as_vis=1
WEEKS vs. UNITED STATES, 232 U.S. 383 (Supreme Court of United States. February 24, 1914). Retrieved September 15, 2014, from
Wright, J. (2012). Introduction to Criminal Justice. San Diego: Bridgepoint Education, Inc.
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