Technology and the Fourth Amendment General Fourth Amendment Information



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General Fourth Amendment Information
The Fourth Amendment places certain restrictions on when and how searches and seizures can be conducted. The Fourth Amendment only restricts and limits the actions of government officials. In other words, the Fourth Amendment doesn’t prevent private citizens, companies, or organizations from conducting searches and seizures (although it is likely that there are criminal and civil laws limiting the actions of non-government officials!).

A search doesn’t just involve government officials riffling through your files and computer records. Generally, a search occurs any time government officials interfere with an individual’s reasonable expectation of privacy. What is a “reasonable expectation of privacy?” Well—that really depends! A court will look at what a common everyday person would expect, the age and situation of the person being searched, whether that person attempted to create a private setting, and a variety of other factors and circumstances. A seizure occurs anytime the government meaningfully interferes with an individual’s freedom of movement. This means that if the police made a reasonable person believe that he or she was not free to leave, it is likely that their Fourth Amendment rights were violated.



What happens if an official executes a search or seizure that is unconstitutional? There is a chance that the person who was wronged could sue the government for damages. For the purposes of studying the Constitution and the rights of individuals, the most important consequence is the Exclusionary Rule. This rule says that any evidence that is obtained during an illegal search or seizure cannot be used against the person whose rights were violated by the search or seizure. The theory behind the Exclusionary Rule is that such consequences will encourage police departments to make sure their officers follow the Constitution and encourage law enforcement personnel to protect the rights of our communities.
Case Study #1: Carroll v. United States 267 U.S. 132 (1925)
Facts:
Carroll and another man were charged with illegally transporting alcohol. The police knew that Carroll had been smuggling alcohol and when they saw him driving, they chased him, pulled him over, searched the car and found the liquor; all without a warrant. Carroll claimed that the warrantless search of his car violated his Fourth Amendment rights.


Decision:
The Court disagreed with Carroll. The Court asserted this search was permissible because, although there is some privacy expectation in cars, the fact that a car can be moved lowers the expectation and creates a need to allow the police to search without a warrant. In the time it would take the police to get a warrant, the car could be driven off and any evidence lost.



Focus Questions
Think about these questions after reading the case study:


    1. How does the 4th Amendment regulate police or government activities in this scenario?

    2. Did this ruling surprise you? Why or why not?



Case Study #2: Olmstead v. United States 277 U.S. 438 (1928)
Facts:
Olmstead was running a major bootlegging operation off the coast of Seattle during Prohibition. Olmstead would often use new technology—phones—to communicate information about incoming shipments and distribution. Police used wiretaps to listen in to Olmstead’s conversations, and taped hours of chatter. Olmstead knew he was being taped, but did not fear prosecution. When he was indicted in 1925 for violating the Volstead Act, Olmstead argued that the wiretapping of his phone violated his Fourth Amendment right to be protected against illegal searches and seizures because police did not have a warrant.
Decision:
The Court disagreed with Olmstead. Former President and Chief Justice William Howard Taft issued the opinion: “The language of the Amendment can not be extended and expanded to include telephone wires reaching to the whole world from the defendant’s house or office. The intervening wires are not part of his house or office any more than are the highways along which they are stretched.” Taft added that Congress was free to protect telephone communication through legislation, but the courts could not do so without distorting the meaning of the Fourth Amendment. In the lengthiest and most noted dissent, Justice Brandeis asserted a general “right to be let alone” from government intrusion and argued that the purpose of the Fourth Amendment was to secure that right. In contrast to Taft and the Court’s majority, Brandeis found that “there is, in essence, no difference between the sealed letter and the private telephone message.” The protections of the Fourth Amendment, he said, did not apply solely to the medium familiar to the framers of the Constitution.



Focus Questions
Think about these questions after reading the case study:


  1. How does the 4th Amendment regulate police or government activities in this scenario?

  2. Did this ruling surprise you? Why or why not?


Case Study #3: Katz v. United States 389 U.S. 347 (1967)
Facts:
Katz used a public phone in LA to call other parts of the country to place illegal bets. Katz frequently used the same phone booth and the police set up an electronic listening/recording device in the booth without a warrant. The recordings of Katz’s portion of the phone calls were used against him in his trial for illegal gambling. Katz claimed that the police use of the device violated his Fourth Amendment right. California claimed that Katz had no reasonable right to expect that his phone calls in a public phone booth would be private.

Decision:
The Court held that the Fourth Amendment did in fact apply in a public phone booth. According to the Court, the Fourth Amendment applies to people not places. In other words, if a person acts in a way that indicates that he or she expects privacy, and such an expectation is reasonable, than the Fourth Amendment will apply.




Focus Questions
Think about these questions after reading the case study:


  1. How does the 4th Amendment regulate police or government activities in this scenario?

  2. Did this ruling surprise you? Why or why not?


Case Study #4: United States v. Knotts 460 U.S. 276 (1983)
Facts:
Minnesota law enforcement agents suspected that Armstrong was purchasing chloroform for the manufacture of illegal drugs. Police arranged with the manufacturer to have a radio transmitter, described as a “beeper,” placed within a drum of chloroform the next time Armstrong made a purchase. Police then followed Armstrong’s vehicle after the purchase, maintaining visual contact for most of the journey. They followed Armstrong to a cabin, owned by Knotts. Police ultimately found Knotts’ cabin through use of the beeper. Following visual surveillance of Knotts’s cabin, the authorities acquired a warrant to search the premises, and used the evidence found therein—an apparent methamphetamine laboratory—to convict both Armstrong and Knotts. Knotts appealed the conviction, claiming the use of the beeper violated his Fourth Amendment rights.
Decision:

The Court unanimously ruled that use of the beeper did not violate Knotts’s Fourth Amendment rights. Monitoring the beeper signals did not invade any legitimate expectation of privacy on Knotts’s part, and thus there was neither a "search" nor a "seizure" within the Fourth Amendment. The beeper surveillance amounted to following an automobile on public streets and highways. A person traveling in an automobile on public thoroughfares has no reasonable expectation of privacy in his movements. The fact that the officers relied not only on visual surveillance, but also on the use of the beeper, does not alter the situation. Nothing in the Fourth Amendment prohibited the police from augmenting their sensory faculties with such enhancement as science and technology afforded them in this case. There is no indication that the beeper was used in any way to reveal information as to the movement of the chloroform container within the cabin, or in any way that would not have been visible to the naked eye from outside the cabin.



Focus Questions
Think about these questions after reading the case study:


  1. How does the 4th Amendment regulate police or government activities in this scenario?

  2. Did this ruling surprise you? Why or why not?


Case Study #5: California v. Greenwood 486 U.S. 35 (1988)
Facts:
The police received a tip that Greenwood was selling drugs out of his home. A police officer asked the trash collector who worked on Greenwood’s street to set the trash bags from in front of Greenwood’s home aside when collecting trash. The officer then went through the bags from in front of Greenwood’s house and found evidence of drug use. This evidence was then used to get a warrant to search Greenwood’s home, where the police found drugs. Greenwood was charged with drug possession and drug trafficking. Greenwood argued that the warrantless search of his trash violated his Fourth Amendment rights.
Decision:
The Court upheld the search and subsequent warrant and arrest. According to the Supreme Court, there is no expectation of privacy in our trash. The Court focused on the fact that the trash was left on the side of the curb, where anyone can look at it and animals or scavengers could get into it. Because trash is knowingly exposed to the public, the Court said there was no role for the Fourth Amendment to play here.

Focus Questions
Think about these questions after reading the case study:


  1. How does the 4th Amendment regulate police or government activities in this scenario?

  2. Did this ruling surprise you? Why or why not?



Case Study #6: Kyllo v. United States 533 U.S. 21 (2001)
Facts:
Government officials were suspicious that Kyllo was growing marijuana. They used thermal imaging equipment to scan Kyllo’s home; the images showed the heat emanating from Kyllo’s home was consistent with high-intensity lamps frequently used for in-door marijuana growing. This information was then used to obtain a warrant to search Kyllo’s home where the police found growing marijuana. Kyllo was subsequently charged with violating federal drug laws. Kyllo asked to the trial court to throw out the evidence obtained as a result of the search on the basis that the use of the thermal-imaging equipment was a search under the Fourth Amendment and therefore required a warrant.
Decision:
According to the Court, the use of the thermal-imaging equipment required a warrant. In coming to this decision, the Court consider that such equipment was not in general use by the public at large and permitted for surveillance that would have been impossible without a physical intrusion into the property. Because the government officials did not obtain a warrant before using the equipment on Kyllo’s house, the search was inherently unreasonable and therefore inadmissible at trial.




Focus Questions
Think about these questions after reading the case study:


  1. How does the 4th Amendment regulate police or government activities in this scenario?

  2. Did this ruling surprise you? Why or why not?


Case Study #7: City of Ontario v. Quon 560 U.S. (2010)
Facts:
Quon, an officer in the Ontario Police Department and member of its SWAT team, was assigned a pager that could send text messages. All Ontario officers with a pager were required to sign a statement that they understood they had no expectation of privacy in using city-issued equipment; officers were told that “light personal use” was permitted. After Quon exceeded the monthly limit for text messages, his lieutenant asked the provider for the transcripts to determine if more messages were needed for department business. The lieutenant learned that Quon had been texting his wife, mistress and friends and that some of the messages were very sexually explicit. Quon, his wife and his mistress filed a suit claiming the lieutenant’s actions violated their Fourth Amendment right to privacy.
Decision:
A unanimous Court ruled in favor of the City of Ontario. According to the Court, the government’s searching of Quon’s text messages was reasonable and did not violate the Fourth Amendment. In the Court’s opinion, the search of Quon’s pager was reasonable given its work-related purpose and was not excessive in scope.


Focus Questions
Think about these questions after reading the case study:


  1. How does the 4th Amendment regulate police or government activities in this scenario?

  2. Did this ruling surprise you? Why or why not?



Case Study #8: U.S. v. Jones 565 US ___ (2012)
Facts:
Agents in Washington, D.C., suspected Jones of trafficking cocaine. They covertly installed and monitored a global positioning system (GPS) device on Jones’s vehicle. (While the agents did have a search warrant to install the device, they did so one day after the warrant expired, and outside of the D.C. district, which had been specified as the search location.) The device provided information about the vehicle’s location only, not the driver or the occupants. Agents collected more than 2,000 pages of GPS data over 28 days and used the device to track Jones’s Jeep in the vicinity of a suspected stash house in Maryland. Jones’s presence at the stash house was also verified by visual, video, and photo surveillance. Ultimately, agents seized cash, cocaine, firearms, and other drug paraphernalia from Jones’s Jeep and the stash house.
Decision:
Jones argued that the installation and monitoring of the GPS device on his vehicle violated his Fourth Amendment rights—it was a search and required a valid search warrant. The Court unanimously agreed with him, and declared that the use of the GPS device did constitute a “search” under the Fourth Amendment.


Focus Questions
Think about these questions after reading the case study:


  1. How does the 4th Amendment regulate police or government activities in this scenario?

  2. Did this ruling surprise you? Why or why not?





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