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W, Weeks v. United States,

Edited By: Kermit L. Hall, James W. Ely Jr., Joel B. Grossman

From: The Oxford Companion to the Supreme Court of the United States (2nd Edition)

Edited By: Kermit L. Hall

From: Oxford Constitutions (http://oxcon.ouplaw.com). (c) Oxford University Press, 2023. All Rights Reserved. Subscriber: null; date: 28 March 2023

Weeks v. United States,

232 U.S. 383 (1914), argued 2–3 Dec. 1913, decided 24 Feb. 1914 by vote of 9 to 0; Day for the Court. Weeks marked the birth of the federal *exclusionary rule. Prior to Weeks, courts admitted illegally seized evidence on the premise that the individual’s right of possession was secondary to the needs of justice. Subjected to warrantless arrest and searches by state officers and a federal marshal, Weeks was convicted on charges of using the mails to transport lottery tickets. His pretrial petition for return of his effects and subsequent objection to their introduction at trial laid the grounds for challenges in the Supreme Court based on the *Fourth and *Fifth Amendments.

Narrowing the issue, Justice William R. *Day emphasized the obligation of federal courts and officers to effectuate the guarantees of the Fourth Amendment. Drawing upon *Boyd v. United States (1886), he suggested that the essential violation was the invasion of Weeks’s right of personal security, personal liberty, and private property. The original warrantless search by the federal marshal and the trial court’s subsequent refusal to return the materials violated the plaintiff’s constitutional rights. Day relied exclusively on Fourth Amendment grounds to order the judgment reversed.

Weeks attracted little attention until the enforcement of prohibition compounded issues of search and seizure.

Barbara C. Steidle