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I. The Fourth Amendment: What is a Search?

I. The Fourth Amendment: What is a Search?

Overview

I. The Fourth Amendment: What is a Search?

  1. Generally

    Olmstead v. United States

    Katz v. United States

    United States v. Jones

  2. Applies to Government Activities Only

    New Jersey v. T.L.O

    Coolidge v. New Hampshire

    Gouled v. United States

  3. Reasonable Expectation of Privacy

    California v. Ciraolo

    Dow Chemical Co. v. United States

    Florida v. Riley

    United States v. Chadwick

    Illinois v. Andreas

    United States v. Karo

    Cardwell v. Lewis

    Kyllo v. United States

    Hoffa v. United States

    Minnesota v. Olson

    Minnesota v. Carter

    O’Connor v. Ortega

    City of Ontario v. Quon

    Hudson v. Palmer

    Maryland v. Macon

    New York v. Class

    Bond v. United States

    United States v. Place

  4. Open Fields

    Hester v. United States

    Oliver v. United States

    United States v. Dunn

  5. Abandoned Property

    California v. Greenwood

    Abel v. United States

  6. Foreign Searches

    United States v. Verdugo-Urquidez

  7. Private Intrusions

    United States v. Jacobsen

    Walter v. United States

  8. Third-Party Control

    United States v. Miller

    Smith v. Maryland

Case Summaries

1. Generally

Olmstead v. United States

277 U.S. 438, 48 S. Ct. 564 (1928)

FACTS: The defendant was the leading figure in a major conspiracy. The government, observing that the defendant appeared to conduct some of his illegal business through the means of a telephone, tapped the telephone to his home and office. In doing so, the officers refrained from entering onto the defendant’s property, using the public street near his home. These wiretaps generated much of the evidence against the defendant.

ISSUE: Whether the government conducted a “search” within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment?

HELD: No. The Fourth Amendment protects “persons, houses papers and effects,” none of which were implicated here.

DISCUSSION: The Court held that, absent an intrusion onto the defendant’s property, no search occurred. While this definition of search would be expanded in the Katz decision, at the time of the Olmstead ruling, no search occurred unless the government intruded into the defendant’s person, home, papers or personal effects. The officers in this instance took special care not to intrude onto the defendant’s property, so, under the only definition of a search at that time, the officers were permitted to listen to the defendant’s telephone conversations.

Interestingly, the Court wrote “[C]ongress may of course protect the secrecy of telephone messages by making them, when intercepted, inadmissible in evidence in federal criminal trials, by direct legislation, and thus depart from the common law of evidence.” Congress did so in Title III of the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968.


Katz v. United States

389 U.S. 347, 88 S. Ct. 507 (1967)

FACTS: FBI agents overheard conversations of the defendant by attaching an electronic listening and recording device to the outside of a public telephone booth from which he had placed his calls. The defendant was charged with transmitting wagering information out of state. At the trial, the court permitted the government to introduce evidence of the defendant’s end of telephone conversations.

ISSUE: Whether the agents’ actions amounted to a Fourth Amendment search?

HELD: Yes. The agents conducted a Fourth Amendment search.

DISCUSSION: The Court held that a “search” takes place whenever the government intrudes on a reasonable expectation of privacy. The Court concluded that the defendant’s expectation of privacy was reasonable if he had taken measures to secure his privacy and the defendant’s expectation of privacy met community standards.

What a person seeks to preserve as private, even in an area accessible to the public, may be constitutionally protected under the Fourth Amendment. A person in a telephone booth may rely upon the protection of the Fourth Amendment, and is entitled to assume that the words he utters into the mouthpiece will not be broadcast to the world.

Once the defendant established he met both prongs, any government intrusion into these areas must meet Fourth Amendment standards. The Fourth Amendment demands that all searches be reasonable. Searches conducted without a warrant are presumed to be unreasonable, except for some limited well-delineated exceptions. In this case, the agents did not have a warrant or valid exception.


2. Applies to Government Activities Only

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3. Reasonable Expectation of Privacy

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