1956 January 19

“Dragnet” Episode Attacks CA Supreme Court Exclusionary Rule Decision


Dragnet, one of the most popular television series, on this day ran an episode attacking a recent ruling by the California Supreme Court affirming the exclusionary rule, which holds that evidence obtained by the police in violation of the Fourth Amendment cannot be used in court against a defendant.

The California case was People v. Cahan,decided the previous spring on April 27, 1955. The U.S. Supreme Court had imposed the exclusionary rule in federal courts in Weeks v. United States on February 24, 1914. The Court applied the rule to all the states, through the 14th Amendment, on June 19, 1961, in Mapp v. Ohio.

The Dragnet episode was a favor for the Los Angeles Police Department from Jack Webb, creator and star of the series. He had a close relationship with the LAPD and its chief, William Parker, and as each show explained, based the show on an actual case from the LAPD files.

Learn more about the Dragnet episode: Paul Lieberman, Gangster Squad: Covert Cops, The Mob, and the Battle for Los Angeles (2012).

And more about the exclusionary rule: Carolyn Long, Mapp v. Ohio: Guarding Against Unreasonable Searches and Seizures (2006)

Learn more: Stephen Schulhofer, More Essential Than Ever: The Fourth Amendment in the Twenty-First Century (2012)


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