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Davis v. Mississippi


A rape victim provided a physical description of her assailant. Officers found fingerprints on a window through which the rapist had apparently entered the victim’s home. On December 3, the defendant and several others were taken to police headquarters, without either a warrant or probable cause for an arrest, for fingerprinting and questioning. Over the next five days, the officers questioned the defendant on several occasions at a variety of locations, including police headquarters. He was also shown to the victim on several occasions, although she did not identify him as the rapist. On December 12, the defendant was arrested without either probable cause or a warrant. The officers fingerprinted him for a second time two days later. These fingerprints were later shown to match those taken from the victim’s window.


Whether the fingerprints taken by officers on December 14th were obtained through an illegal detention under the Fourth Amendment?


Yes. Because the defendant’s detention on December 12th was unlawful, the fingerprints taken during his confinement were obtained in violation of the Fourth Amendment.


The fingerprint evidence taken on December 14th was obtained while the defendant was still confined following his arrest on December 12th. Because the arrest and subsequent confinement were not based on either a warrant or probable cause, both violated the Fourth Amendment. The Court noted that the fingerprints taken on December 3rd were also taken in violation of the Fourth Amendment. There was no evidence that the defendant voluntarily accompanied the police to headquarters. Therefore, the seizure of the defendant on either date was constitutionally invalid, as were the fingerprints obtained during the illegal detention.


394 U.S. 721, 89 S. Ct. 1394 (1969)

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