Cupp v. Murphy Case Brief

Search and Seizure Case Briefs

Cupp v. Murphy, 412 U.S. 291, 93 S. Ct. 2000 (1973)

FACTS: Murphy’s wife was murdered by strangulation in Portland, Oregon. There was no indication of forced entry. Murphy, who did not live with his wife, was notified, and he called the Portland police. At their request, he came to the station for questioning, voluntarily. He arrived, along with his attorney. Officers noticed a dark spot on Murphy’s finger. Suspecting it to be blood, they asked him for a scraping of the substance, and Murphy refused. They seized Murphy, and over his protests, they scraped his fingernails. (Upon being aware that they suspected material may be under his fingernails, Murphy began to rub his hands together and possibly use keys to attempt clean his fingernails.) Lab results showed the stain to be traces of skin and blood cells that matched his wife, as well as fabric fibers matching her nightgown. After the lab results were returned, Murphy was arrested, and eventually convicted, of second-degree murder.

He appealed, stating the search of his fingernails was unconstitutional without a warrant.

ISSUE: Is the taking of physical samples from a suspect, without a warrant, unconstitutional.


DISCUSSION: The Court distinguished this situation in stating that the detention and search of Murphy were reasonable under the circumstances, in that the evidence was evanescent and needed to be preserved immediately.