Katz v. United States 389 U.S. 347 (1967)

Author:Herman Schwartz

Page 1527

Katz ended one era of constitutional protection for FOURTH AMENDMENT rights and began another. In OLMSTEAD V. UNITED STATES (1928) the Supreme Court had virtually exempted from the Fourth Amendment's ban on UNREASONABLE SEARCHES and seizures any search that did not involve a physical intrusion on property and a seizure of tangible things. Although eroded by subsequent decisions, and superseded by a federal statute where wiretapping was required, Olmstead 's physical intrusion requirement inhibited constitutional control of aural and visual surveillance for forty years, until Katz was decided.

Federal agents, believing that Katz was using a pay telephone to transmit gambling information, attached a listening and recording device to the outside of the phone booth without trying to meet Fourth Amendment requirements. With the information obtained from the device, the police were able to convict Katz, but the Supreme Court overturned the conviction. The Court ruled that Katz was entitled to Fourth Amendment protection for his conversations and that a physical intrusion into an area occupied by Katz was not necessary to bring the amendment into play. "The Fourth Amendment protects people, not places," wrote Justice POTTER STEWART for a virtually unanimous Court (only Justice HUGO L. BLACK dissented). Justice JOHN MARSHALL HARLAN, concurring, developed a test for determining what interests are protected, which...

To continue reading