Coolidge v. New Hampshire

Coolidge v. New Hampshire
Seal of the United States Supreme Court
Argued January 12, 1971
Decided June 21, 1971
Full case nameEdward Coolidge v. New Hampshire
Citations403 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Superseded by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, 496 128 (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.

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 the person who had called her saying they 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.

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