Today marks the 104th anniversary of the landmark case of Weeks v United States. This case marked the birth of the Exclusionary rule. The Exclusionary rule is a principle of constitutional law derived from the 4th amendment. The principle states that evidence that is obtained illegally cannot be used in a subsequent criminal case. While this case was a landmark, it only applied to the Federal Government. It would be another 47 years after this case before the Supreme Court finally extended the Exclusionary rule to apply to state prosecutions in Mapp v. Ohio.
The facts of Weeks are products of a different time in American history. On December 21st, 1911 Mr. Fremont Weeks, and employee of a mailing company in Kansas City Missouri was arrested by Missouri state police officers for violating federal and state law regarding the interstate shipping of lottery tickets. After Mr. Weeks arrest, state police officers when to his home and entered without a warrant to begin searching for evidence. After discovering numerous lottery tickets, the police left and returned some hours later with a US Marshal and again without a warrant. The officers collected numerous lottery tickets and other evidence from Mr. Weeks home. The evidence obtained by the state police officers was obtained in violation of the Missouri constitution meaning the evidence could not be used in a state prosecution. Mr. Weeks, prior to his Federal Trial sought to have his papers and lottery tickets returned citing that the evidence had been illegally obtained. His application was denied.
At Weeks subsequent federal trial, the lottery tickets obtained by the US marshal were entered into evidence and used to convict him of federal interstate gambling crimes. Weeks appealed his conviction directly to the Supreme Court seeking a writ of certiorari which was granted in mid-1913.
On December 2nd 1913 at the Supreme Court, Mr. Weeks argued that the evidence obtained by the US Marshall was in violating of the 4th amendment of the Constitution because the search had been conducted without a warrant and was therefore unreasonable. Mr. Weeks went on to argue that the only remedy for the violation of his 4th amendment rights were to exclude all the evidence obtained by the police in violation of his rights. Weeks also argued that it was imperative that illegally obtained evidence be excluded to dissuade law enforcement from violating citizens rights.
The State argued that Mr. Weeks was not entitled to have the evidence excluded because the evidence had been obtained illegally by the state police first, and while the state police could not use the evidence in a subsequent trial, they could turn over the evidence to a federal agent for subsequent use and that such use was not in violation of the 4th amendment. Further the State argued that the 4th amendment does not explicit say that illegally obtained evidence should be excluded, and as such did not have to be.
The Supreme Court rendered its decision on February 24th, 1914. In a unanimous decision led by Justice William R. Day, the Supreme Court held that the US Marshal had violated Week’s 4th amendment rights when he entered Week’s home without a warrant and seized the papers which made up the evidence against Weeks. The Court reasoned that the evidence obtained by the Missouri state police was illegally obtained, and therefore could not be turned over to the US Marshals. The Court then went on what would come to be known as the Exclusionary Rule. The Court held that exclusion of illegally obtained evidence was the only way to protect citizens 4th amendment rights from being violated. The Court reasoned that it was better to acquit a guilty person than to allow the 4th amendment to be violated. However, the Court noted that this ruling only applied to the Federal government. Finally the Court reversed and remanded Mr. Weeks case with instructions to dismiss his case.
Weeks stands a monumental case in United States criminal law. This case gave birth to the Exclusionary rule which is essentially the guarantee of ones 4th amendment rights. However, this case was limited as it only applied to the Federal Government. States were still allowed to use illegally obtained evidence so long as their state constitution allowed for it. The Supreme Court would uphold that the exclusionary rule only applied to the federal government 35 years later in the case of Wolf v. Colorado. However, eventually the Supreme Court would expand the exclusionary rule to include state cases in the landmark case of Mapp v. Ohio.
Weeks serves as the forerunner of the 4th amendment constitutional protections we still have today. With Experienced Legal representation, your rights can be protected thanks to the foundation laid by this case.
Written by Hunter White
 Weeks v. United States, 232 U.S. 383, 34 S. Ct. 341 (1914)
 Mapp v. Ohio, 367 U.S. 643, 81 S. Ct. 1684 (1961)