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6 more SCOTUS cases to ‘know and tell’

Here are a handful of other — perhaps less-well-known — cases which merit mention in this space


Chime in with your own cases in the comments below.

In addition to agency policy, case law — court decisions — governs police conduct. Court decisions may vary in different jurisdictions. Sometimes the Supreme Court decides to settle these differences.

Cops also have to know their state and Supreme Court law and be able to articulate how they apply to the decisions they make out on the street. In a previously written article, we covered five Supreme Court decisions cops know and wish the public would take the time to understand. Here are a handful of other — perhaps less-well-known — SCOTUS cases which merit mention in this space.

Miranda v. Arizona: Everybody who owns a television has heard the Miranda warning: “You have the right to remain silent…” However, what is almost universally unknown is that it’s common to encounter circumstances in which Miranda does not apply. Stated plainly, Miranda really only applies to questioning when the subject is in custody. Non-custodial interviews do not require a Miranda warning.

Riley v. California and U.S. v. Wurie: In these two June 2014 cases, the Supreme Court issued a combined opinion related to searches of cell phones incident to arrest. The court ruled that the established exception permitting searches incident to arrest does not apply to the arrestee’s mobile phone, holding that police are not permitted to search mobile phones incident to arrest without a warrant.

Silverthorne Lumber Co. v. United States: In Silverthorne, the Court created what would become known as “the fruit of the poisonous tree” doctrine. An extension of the exclusionary rule, The Court held that evidence derived from other evidence collected in violation of a person’s Fourth Amendment rights is equally inadmissible to the first “generation” of inadmissible evidence.

Mapp v. Ohio: In Mapp, the Supreme Court extended the exclusionary rule — which protects individuals from having evidence collected in violation a subject’s Fourth Amendment rights from having that evidence admitted in court — to the states. Prior to the Mapp ruling, the Fourteenth Amendment due process clause was accepted to be applicable only to actions of the federal government.

United States v. Leon: In Leon, the Court created the ‘good faith’ exception to the exclusionary rule. This case revolved around evidence collected by police against a search warrant that was later found to be invalid. The evidence in this case was held to be admissible because the officers acted in ‘good faith’ that the warrant under which they operated was a good one. It should be noted that this is an example where a Supreme Court decision may not govern state or local police conduct. State statutes and case law might be more restrictive of police power but it can’t be less restrictive than the U.S. Constitution and U.S. Supreme Court require.


These six cases supplement the “big five” previously outlined. Chime in with your own cases in the comments below.

Doug Wyllie writes police training content on a wide range of topics and trends affecting the law enforcement community. Doug was a co-founder of the Policing Matters podcast and a longtime co-host of the program.