Coolidge v. New Hampshire Case Brief

Facts of the Case

Police went to defendant’s home on January 28, 1964, to question him about a murder. Defendant was arrested in his house for the murder and on that date a warrant to search defendant’s automobile was applied for by the police chief and issued by the Attorney General (who had assumed charge of the investigation and was later the chief prosecutor at the trial), acting as a justice of the peace. The car, which at the time of the arrest was parked in defendant’s driveway, was subsequently towed to the police station, where on three occasions  it was searched. Vacuum sweepings from the car as well as from the clothing were used as evidence at the trial, along with one of the guns made available by defendant’s wife. On defendant’s appeal, the judgment of the lower court regarding the admission of evidence at a murder trial was affirmed. Defendant petitioned for further review in the United States Supreme Court.


Does the Fourth Amendment prohibit warrantless searches when the defendant has previously objected but is no longer present and the co-tenant consents?


“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 detatched magistrate.” Stewart also rejected New Hampshire’s arguments in favor of making an exception to the warrant requirement. Stewart held that neither the “incident to arrest” doctrine nor the “plain view” doctrine justified the search, and that an “automobile exception” was inapplicable.”

Case Information

Citation: 403 US 443 (1971)
Argued: Jan 12, 1971
Decided: Jun 21, 1971
Case Brief: 1971