Law 260 Final Paper Fourth Amendment

Topics: Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, Supreme Court of the United States, Searches and seizures Pages: 7 (2519 words) Published: March 13, 2013
Patty Blanchard
Intro to Law
Final Research Paper

George Orwell warned us about this in his novel 1984; He claimed that by 1984, Big Brother would be able to watch our every move, and that day is essentially here. It is nice to know that there are laws and officials out there to protect citizens. They are essential to keeping everyone safe, and making sure criminals face justice, but it raises the question of how far are these officials able to go before they are unreasonably invading people’s privacy? That is generally what the 4th Amendment deals with, protection against unreasonable search and seizure. The current case of Jones vs. United States is a suit dealing with the 4th Amendment and has large implications, as it could set precedent for whether or not GPS tracking can be used without a warrant. A tracking device was put on his Jones car by police officers under the suspicions of intent to distribute cocaine. After 4 weeks of 24-hour surveillance, they were able to make an arrest. I believe that the use of GPS tracking makes for more efficient tracking of criminals and should be permitted by the 4th Amendment, as long as a warrant is issued. As evidenced in various law reviews, and previous 4th Amendment cases, GPS tracking is the newest form of tracking and surveillance, and the law needs to catch up with the technology.

The 4th amendment states that people have the right “to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized”(Fourth). In some circumstances only are warrantless searches allowed; situations of searches in highly regulated industries, hazardous operations, and emergency situations. When looking at the case Jones vs. U.S. the main issue is whether placing a GPS device on Jones’ car without a warrant and being able to track all of his movements violated his rights under the 4th Amendment. The main parts of this particular amendment are the components of search and seizure. A search is an examination of someone’s body, home, car, or personal property while a seizure is the actual taking of someone’s property on the suspicion that they are violating some sort of law. In both these cases warrants must be issued with a probable cause of a law violation, unless they are given consent or there are extenuating circumstances (Fourth).

When looking at landmark cases involving the 4th Amendment, one of the first that comes to mind is Katz vs. United States. In this case Katz was convicted of transmitting wagering information over telephone lines, which violates federal law. The government got hold of this evidence by placing a recording device on the phone booth that Katz was using without a warrant. This case ultimately discussed the nature of the "right to privacy" and the legal definition of a "search". When brought to the Supreme Court, Katz was found not guilty for the charges on the belief that when someone enters a phone booth and shuts the door behind them, there is a reasonable expectation of privacy. Since no warrant was produced, the police violated Katz’s rights, and the evidence that they gathered was dismissed by the exclusionary rule, which throws away any evidence that was obtained illegally (Katz).

The government in Katz’s case had their own defense. They contested that “that the activities of its agents in this case should not be tested by Fourth Amendment requirements, for the surveillance technique they employed involved no physical penetration of the telephone booth from which the petitioner placed his calls” (Katz). I see their argument in that they made no physical actions that actually violated the fourth amendment. The government claims the device did not actually penetrate the walls of the booth, therefore being...
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