Wolf VS. Colorado By: D’arce Delagarza & Brianna Smart
Dr. Wolf, a Colorado physician, was suspected of performing abortions secretly, in violation of state laws. But the police were unable to obtain evidence to prove their suspicions. A deputy sheriff assigned to the case took Dr. Wolf's appointment book from his office, without the doctor's knowledge. The police contacted people listed in this appointment book about Dr. Wolf's medical practice. Through these interviews the police gained enough evidence to convict Wolf of conspiracy to commit abortions. Wolf said his constitutional rights had been violated. He pointed to the 4th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated.” He also pointed to the 14th Amendment: “No state … shall deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.”
Original Case: 1948 Supreme Court Case: 1949 Final Decision: 1949
Opinion of the Court Justice Felix Frankfurter agreed that the 4th Amendment was applicable to the states through the 14th Amendment. He wrote eloquently about the fundamental right of the individual to be secure against arbitrary intrusion by agents of the government. Frankfurter said, “The security of one's privacy against arbitrary intrusion by the police is basic to a free society. The knock on the door, whether by day or by night, as a prelude to a search, without authority of law but solely on the authority of the police is inconsistent with the conception of human rights enshrined in the history and basic constitutional documents of English-speaking peoples.“ The Supreme Court held that 4th Amendment protection applies to searches by state officials as well as by federal agents.
Dissenting Opinion Justice William O. Douglas argued that the exclusionary rule must be used to enforce 4th Amendment rights. Without the exclusion of illegally obtained evidence, he noted, the constitutional protections against unreasonable searches and seizures are practically worthless.
Constitutional Challenge Before the Court Writing for the majority, Justice Felix Frankfurter argued that protection from arbitrary intrusion by law enforcement is implied in the “concept of ordered liberty” and thereby incorporated by the Fourteenth Amendment and applicable to the states
Significance of this case This was the first time that 4th Amendment rights were incorporated by the 14th Amendment and applied to the states, a precedent that has been followed ever since the Wolf case. In 1961, in Mapp v. Ohio, the Court accepted the dissenting position of the Wolf case and applied the exclusionary rule to the states, thus overturning the Wolf decision.
This doesn’t necessarily affect my life in anyway because it has nothing to do with me. I’m not a doctor, a police or a pregnant woman. It actually does kind of matter to me because Dr.Wolf was doing abortions secretly. To me, that is very unprofessional. I mean yes, he’s getting paid and he may be helping women out but in the long run, he’s putting his career and life in jeopardy by disobeying the law.
This isn’t relevant in my life because I can’t relate to any of it but if I was ever in a situation similar to Dr.Wolf’s it would be relevant.
The time period that this case took place in was the 40’s where World War 2 dominated most of it. It was a time where the Cold War began and our country was going through a lot of unemployment and national debt. It was a time period where the Supreme Court decided African Americans could vote.