Coolidge v. New Hampshire

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Coolidge v. New Hampshire
Seal of the United States Supreme Court.svg
Argued January 12, 1971
Decided June 21, 1971
Full case nameEdward Coolidge v. New Hampshire
Citations403 U.S. 443 ( more )
91 S. Ct. 2022; 29 L. Ed. 2d 564
Case history
Prior109 N.H. 403, 260 A.2d 547 (1969); cert. granted, 399 U.S. 926(1970).
The warrant for the search and seizure of petitioner's automobile did not satisfy the requirements of the Fourth Amendment, because it was not issued by a "neutral and detached magistrate."
Court membership
Chief Justice
Warren E. Burger
Associate Justices
Hugo Black  · William O. Douglas
John M. Harlan II  · William J. Brennan Jr.
Potter Stewart  · Byron White
Thurgood Marshall  · Harry Blackmun
Case opinions
MajorityStewart, joined by Burger, Harlan, Douglas, Brennan, Marshall
Concur/dissentBlack, joined by Burger, Blackmun
Concur/dissentWhite, joined by Burger
Laws applied
U.S. Const. amend. IV
Superseded by
Horton v. California , 496 U.S. 128 (1990).

Coolidge v. New Hampshire, 403 U.S. 443 (1971), was a United States Supreme Court case dealing with the Fourth Amendment and the automobile exception.

Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution Prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures

The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution is part of the Bill of Rights. It prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures. In addition, it sets requirements for issuing warrants: warrants must be issued by a judge or magistrate, justified by probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and must particularly describe the place to be searched and the persons or things to be seized.


The state sought to justify the search of a car owned by Edward Coolidge, suspected of killing 14-year-old Pamela Mason in January 1964, on three theories: automobile exception, search incident to arrest, and plain view.


14-year-old Pamela Mason of Manchester, New Hampshire placed an ad in the window of a local merchant offering to babysit. On January 13, 1964, she was picked up by a man who had called her, saying that he needed a babysitter. He picked her up to take her to the alleged babysitting location but she was never seen again. Eight days later, Mason was found stabbed and shot to death in a snowbank near Manchester, New Hampshire. The state Attorney General took charge of police activities relating to the murder. When the police applied for a warrant to search suspect Coolidge's automobile, the Attorney General, acting as a justice of the peace, authorized it. Additionally, local police had taken items from Coolidge's home during the course of an interview with the suspect's wife. Coolidge was found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment.

Manchester, New Hampshire Largest city in New Hampshire

Manchester is a city in southern New Hampshire, United States. It is the most populous city in northern New England, an area comprising the states of Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont. As of the 2010 census the city had a population of 109,565, and in 2018 the population was estimated to be 112,525.

Opinion of the Court

In a decision in which a number of justices chose to concur in part and dissent in part, the Court held that the searches and seizures of Coolidge's property were unconstitutional. Justice Stewart's opinion held that the warrant authorizing the seizure of Coolidge's automobile was invalid because it was not issued by a "neutral and detached magistrate." Justice Stewart also rejected New Hampshire's arguments in favor of making an exception to the warrant requirement. Justice Stewart held that neither the "incident to arrest" doctrine nor the "plain view" doctrine justified the search, and that an "automobile exception" was inapplicable. The Court noted that although the "automobile exception" exists, "the word 'automobile' is not a talisman in whose presence the fourth amendment fades away and disappears...".

Potter Stewart American judge

Potter Stewart was an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court, serving from 1958 to 1981. During his tenure, he made, among other areas, major contributions to criminal justice reform, civil rights, access to the courts, and Fourth Amendment jurisprudence.


Coolidge was released from prison in 1991[ why? ] maintains his innocence in Mason's murder and the other murders he was suspected in. [1]

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United States v. Place, 462 U.S. 696 (1983), was a decision by the Supreme Court of the United States which held that a sniff of luggage in a public place, by a police dog specially trained to detect the odor of narcotics, was not a "search" under the meaning of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The Court reasoned that the sniff of a dog is sui generis, intended to disclose only the presence or absence of narcotics. Because a dog sniff is such a limited test, the Court carved out this exception from the broad category of "searches" for which a warrant is generally required.

United States v. Ross, 456 U.S. 798 (1982), was a search and seizure case argued before the Supreme Court of the United States. The high court was asked to decide if a legal warrantless search of an automobile allows closed containers found in the vehicle to be searched as well. The appeals court had previously ruled that opening and searching the closed portable containers without a warrant was a violation of the Fourth Amendment, even though the warrantless vehicle search was permissible due to existing precedent.

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Chimel v. California, 395 U.S. 752 (1969), is a 1969 Supreme Court of the United States case. In Chimel, the Court held that police officers arresting a person at home could not search the entire home without a search warrant, but police may search the area within immediate reach of the person.

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Kentucky v. King, 563 U.S. 452 (2011), was a decision by the United States Supreme Court which held that warrantless searches conducted in police-created exigent circumstances do not violate the Fourth Amendment so long as the police did not create the exigency by violating or threatening to violate the Fourth Amendment.

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Further reading

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The United States Reports are the official record of the Supreme Court of the United States. They include rulings, orders, case tables, in alphabetical order both by the name of the petitioner and by the name of the respondent, and other proceedings. United States Reports, once printed and bound, are the final version of court opinions and cannot be changed. Opinions of the court in each case are prepended with a headnote prepared by the Reporter of Decisions, and any concurring or dissenting opinions are published sequentially. The Court's Publication Office oversees the binding and publication of the volumes of United States Reports, although the actual printing, binding, and publication are performed by private firms under contract with the United States Government Publishing Office.