The petitioner Mr. Katz was arrested for illegal gambling, he had been gamblingover a public phone. The FBI attached an electronic recorder onto the outside of thepublic phone booth. The state courts claimed this to be legal because the recording devicewas on the outside of the phone and the FBI never entered the booth. The Supreme CourtRuled in the favor of Katz. They stated that the Fourth Amendment allowed for theprotection of a person and not just a persons property against illegal searches. The FourthAmendment written in 1791 states,The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, andeffects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated,and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath oraffirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and thepersons or things to be seized (Galloway 214).
The court was unsure on weather or not they should consider a public telephone booth asan area protected by the fourth amendment. The court did state that:The Fourth Amendment protects people, not places. What a personknowingly exposes to the public, even in his own home or office, is not asubject of Fourth Amendment protection. But what he seeks to preserve asprivate, even in an area accessible to the public, may be constitutionallyprotected…Searches conducted without warrants have been held unlawfulnotwithstanding facts unquestionably showing probable cause, for theConstitution requires that the deliberate impartial judgment of a judicialofficer be interposed between the citizen and the police (Maddex 201).
The FBI agents found out the days and times he would use the pay phone. TheFBI attached a tape recorder to the outside of the telephone booth. The FBI recorded himusing the phone six different times, all six conversations were around three minutes long.
They made sure that they only recorded him and not anyone elses conversations. Katzlost the case all the way up to the Supreme Court because the state courts and the Courtof Appeals said there was no amendment violation since there was no physical entranceinto the area occupied by the petitioner (Hall 482). The Constitutional FourthAmendment was looked at and analyzed very carefully and the Surpreme Court decided infavor of Katz with a seven to one vote. Strong arguments were brought to the stand, theGovernments eavesdropping violated the privacy of Katz. The Fourth Amendmentgoverns not only the seizure of tangible items but extends as well the recording of oralstatements (Katzen 1). The surveillance in this case could have been legal by theconstitution, but it was not part of the warrant issued. Warrants are very valuable to makeeverything stated in the fourth amendment legal. The telephone booth was made of glassso he was visible to the public, but he did not enter the booth so no one could see him, heentered the booth so no one could hear him. A person in a telephone booth is underprotection of the Fourth Amendment, One who occupies it, shuts the door behind him, and pays the toll thatpermits him to place a call is surly entitled to assume that the words heutters into the mouthpiece will not be broadcasted to the world. To readthe constitution more narrowly is to ignore the vital role that the publictelephone has to come to play in private communication (Katzen 2).
But with all this evidence it was still fought that the surveillance method they usedinvolved no physical penetration into the telephone booth. The Fourth Amendment wasthought to limit only searches and seizures of tangible property.
The decision of the court was seven to one and Mr. Justice Marshall took no partin the decision of the case. Mr. Justice Stewart concurred in his speech that,…these considerations do not vanish when the search in question istransferred from the setting of a home, an office, or a hotel room to that ofa telephone booth. Wherever a man may be, he is entitled to know that hewill remain free from unreasonable searches and seizures (Katzen 4).
Mr. Justice Stewarts feelings on the case were that the use of electronic surveillanceshould be regulated. He thinks permission should be granted for the use of electronicsurveillance. Mr. Justice Douglas, with whom Mr. Justice Brennan joined, concurred thatThe Fourth Amendment draws no lines between various substantive offenses. The arrestsin cases of hot pursuit and the arrests on visible or other evidence of probable cause cutacross the board and are not peculiar to any kind of crime (Galloway 216). Mr. JusticeHarlan concurred that like a home a telephone booth has its privacy. And the intrusion intoa place that is private is a violation of the Fourth Amendment. Also, warrants are veryimportant in legal procedures of the court and must be followed through. Mr. JusticeWhite Concurred,I agree that the official surveillance of petitioners telephone conversationsin a public booth must be subjected to the test of reasonableness under theFourth Amendment…the particular surveillance undertaken wasunreasonable absent a warrant properly authorizing it (Hall 482).
Mr. Justice Fortas and Mr. Justice Douglas concurred together and said that the fourthamendment should be revised for todays technology. Although the right of the fourthamendment has come up allot like the Osborn V. United States case. Now it is time toadjust and start by saying that the FBI violated the privacy upon which the petitionerjustifiably relied while using the telephone booth (Levy 1097). Mr. Justice Blackdissented, he could not concur because he could not make the amendment say what itdidnt know when it was written, I will not distort the words of the amendment in orderto keep the constitution up to date (Katzen 15). He believes that privacy is that onlyexplained in the fourth Amendment and no general right is granted,by the amendment so as to give this court the unlimited power to holdunconstitutional everything which affects privacy…the framers…did notintend to grant this court such omnipotent lawmaking authority as that…forthese reasons I respectfully dissent(Katzen 15). After this case the court made some requirements for electronic eavesdropping.
Most of them were put in the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968. Thereare strict requirements for electronic surveillance. Warrants now have to be specified forthe use of electronic devices.
Works CitedGalloway, John, (ed.) The Supreme Court and The Rights of The Accused. New York: Facts on File, 1973.
Hall, Kermit. The Oxford Companion to The Supreme Court of The UnitedStates. New York: Oxford, 1992.
Katzen, Sally. Katz V. United States. FedWorld/FLITE Supreme Court Decisions Homepage. 24 Sep. 1997. Online.
Levy, Leonard, (ed.) Encyclopedia of the American Constitution. New York: Macmillan, 1986.
Maddex, James, Jr. Constitutional Law: Cases and Comments. St. Paul: West,1979.