Supreme Court Justice deciding on a Fourth Amendment case
you will be a Supreme Court Justice deciding on a Fourth Amendment case. Carefully read about the case in question, the summaries of related Supreme Court decisions, and directions for the
The Case “Doe v. City of Intrusia”:
Trouble was brewing in the small, quiet city of Intrusia. Someone was selling methamphetamine to the local teenagers and a popular football player died after an overdose. The community was panicked
and demanded that the police find the source of the meth and shut it down immediately. The police suspected that 20 year old Joe Doe was selling the meth but they didn’t have much evidence.
The state prosecutor advised the police department to talk with the local cell phone carrier about “cloning” Mr. Doe’s phone. The cell phone carrier created a “clone” phone which allowed the police
to read text messages sent and received by Mr. Doe. In no time the police had evidence implicating Mr. Doe as a dealer and the location of the meth lab. Mr. Doe was convicted and the meth lab was
Mr. Doe is appealing his conviction, claiming that the interception of text messages violated the unreasonable search and seizure protections of the Fourth Amendment. Furthermore, all evidence from
the text messages should have been excluded from his trial.
The City of Intrusia argues that there was no physical intrusion into Mr. Doe’s space and that police were acting quickly in order to uphold their duty to protect the community’s safety.
In Silverman v. United States (1961) (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site. the Supreme Court held that that the Fourth Amendment does not protect conversations, therefore
wiretapping does not constitute a search and seizure. The case was reversed in Katz v. United States (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site., when Justice Harlan proposed a two
pronged test of whether public actions should be considered private and therefore protected.
1) Has the person exhibited an expectation of privacy? and
2) Is the expectation of privacy one that society is prepared to recognize as ‘reasonable.’
In more recent decisions, the Supreme Court has found that society is not prepared to extend privacy rights to bank customers regarding their bank statements and that society was not prepared to
recognize a privacy right concerning aerial visibility of a backyard crop of marijuana. On the other hand, smartphones are a technology far beyond that of previous decades, holding an incredible
amount of data.
Does the Fourth Amendment protection against search and seizure protect text messages sent over a cell phone?
How would you apply the two prong test of Katz?
Is there a “reasonable expectation of privacy” when texts are sent?
Did Mr. Doe exhibit an expectation of privacy when he sent the texts?
Is there a societal expectation of privacy in the process of text messaging?
Of information found on most smartphones?
Related Supreme Court Decisions (each case is linked to a short description on Oyez.com):
Olmstead v. United States (1928) (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.
Did the use of evidence disclosed in wiretapped private telephone conversations; violate the recorded party’s Fourth and Fifth Amendments?
Katz v. United States (1967) (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.
Does the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable searches and seizures require the police to obtain a search warrant in order to wiretap a public pay phone?
California v. Ciraolo (1986) (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.
Did the warrantless, aerial observation of Ciraolo’s back yard from an altitude of 1,000 feet constitute an illegal search and violate the Fourth Amendment?
Bond v. United States (2000) (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.
Does a law enforcement officer’s physical manipulation of a bus passenger’s carry-on luggage violate the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable searches?
Kyllo v. United States (2001) (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.
Does the use of a thermal-imaging device to detect relative amounts of heat emanating from a private home constitute an unconstitutional search in violation of the Fourth Amendment?
Riley v. California (2014) (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.
Was the evidence admitted at trial from Riley’s cell phone discovered through a search that violated his Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches?
As you read through the Supreme Court decisions above, look at how justices have crafted their decisions, and learn from them