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Katz v. United States
Seal of the United States Supreme Court.svg
Supreme Court of the United States
Argued October 17, 1967
Decided December 18, 1967
Full case name Charles Katz v. United States
Citations 389 U.S. 347 (more)
88 S. Ct. 507; 19 L. Ed. 2d 576; 1967 U.S. LEXIS 2
Prior history Certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
Holding
The Court extended the Fourth Amendment protection from unreasonable search and seizure to protect individuals in a telephone booth from wiretaps by authorities without a warrant.
Court membership
Case opinions
Majority Stewart, joined by Brennan, Douglas, Fortas, Harlan, Warren, White
Concurrence Douglas, joined by Brennan
Concurrence Harlan
Concurrence White
Dissent Black
Marshall took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.
Laws applied
U.S. Const. amend. IV

Katz v. United States, 389 U.S. 347 (1967) was a United States Supreme Court decision that extended the Fourth Amendment protection from unreasonable search and seizure to protect individuals in a telephone booth from wiretaps by authorities without a warrant.

Contents

Facts

Charles Katz was convicted in California of illegal gambling. He had used a public pay phone booth in Los Angeles to place bets in Miami and Boston. Unbeknownst to Katz, the FBI had recorded his conversation via an electronic eavesdropping device attached to the exterior of the phone booth. Katz was convicted based on recordings of his end of the conversations. He challenged his conviction, arguing that the recordings could not be used as evidence against him. The Court of Appeals sided with the FBI because there was not a physical intrusion into the phone booth itself. The Supreme Court granted certiorari.

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Issue(s) before the Court

  • Does the Fourth Amendment protect the private conversations of an individual made in a telephone booth?
  • Is a physical intrusion by government officials required to violate a defendant's Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable search and seizure, or is a warrant-less electronic tap of the defendant's phone call enough of an act to violate his/her rights?
  • Is the government required to obtain a search warrant before executing a wiretap, or is a determination by the federal agents that probable cause exists enough?

Holding

  • So long as an individual can justifiably expect that his conversation would remain private, his/her conversation is protected from "unreasonable search and seizure" by the Fourth Amendment.
  • The Fourth Amendment protects people, not places. Therefore, the rights of an individual may not be violated by the government, regardless of whether or not there is physical intrusion into any given area.
  • A warrant is required before the government can execute a wiretap, and the warrant must be sufficiently limited in scope and duration.

Decision and rationale

In the decision the Supreme Court sided with Katz, holding that the Fourth Amendment protects his right to privacy, wherever he may be. Justice Stewart wrote, "No less than an individual in a business office, in a friend's apartment, or in a taxicab, a person in a telephone booth may rely upon the protection of the Fourth Amendment." The thrust of the Court's argument was that the Amendment protects people and not just places. This ruling also extended the protection of the Fourth Amendment to include private conversation in addition to corporeal objects.

  • "The Government's activities in electronically listening to and recording the petitioner's words violate the privacy upon which he justifiably relied while using the telephone booth and thus constituted a 'search and seizure' within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment."
  • "The Fourth Amendment protects people, not places."

The Katz opinion therefore extended the reach of the fourth amendment beyond just physical intrusions; it would also protect against the seizure of incorporeal words.[1] In addition, the reach of the amendment now went as far as a person's reasonable privacy expectation - the reach of the amendment was no longer defined solely by property limits.[2] The Katz case made government wiretapping by both state and federal authorities subject to the fourth amendment's warrant requirements.[3]

Justice Harlan's concurrence

In his concurrence, Justice Harlan formulated a two-part test for determining whether police activity constitutes a search. Harlan's test, not the majority's test, is the most common formulation cited by courts. Something is a search within the meaning of the Fourth amendment if (1) the individual "has exhibited an actual (subjective) expectation of privacy," and (2) society is prepared to recognize that this expectation is (objectively) reasonable. This test was later adopted by the majority in Smith v. Maryland.

Justice Black's dissent

In his dissent, Justice Hugo Black argued that the Fourth Amendment, as a whole, was only meant to protect "things" from physical search and seizure; it was not meant to protect personal privacy. Additionally, Black argued that the modern act of wiretapping was analogous to the act of eavesdropping, which was around even when the Bill of Rights was drafted. Black concluded that if the drafters of the Fourth Amendment had meant for it to protect against eavesdropping they would have included the proper language.

See also

References

  1. ^ Friedman, Leon. The Justices of the United States Supreme Court: Their Lives and Major Opinions, Volume V. Chelsea House Publishers. 1978. Page 292.
  2. ^ Friedman, Leon. The Justices of the United States Supreme Court: Their Lives and Major Opinions, Volume V. Chelsea House Publishers. 1978. Page 292.
  3. ^ Friedman, Leon. The Justices of the United States Supreme Court: Their Lives and Major Opinions, Volume V. Chelsea House Publishers. 1978. Page 292.

External links


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