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Katz v. United States

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Katz v. United States, 389 U.S. 347 (1967), was a criminal procedure case heard by the Supreme Court that dealt with issues of unreasonable search and seizure as related to wiretapping.

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Contents

Summary of Case Facts

Katz used a public phone booth in Los Angeles to transmit illegal gambling bets to Boston and Miami. Unbeknownst to Katz, the FBI had attached a recording device to the exterior of the phone booth. Katz was charged with illegal transmission of wagering information and convicted. Katz appealed, contending that the recordings were made in violation of his Fourth Amendment rights preventing unreasonable search and seizure. The Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the FBI in that no physical intrusion into the phone booth took place. The appeal was heard by the United States Supreme Court.

Issue

Does the Fourth Amendment require a search warrant for wiretapping, even where physical intrusion did not occur?

Holding and Law

Yes. The court ruled that regardless of the location, a conversation is to be protected when the participants have a reasonable expectation of privacy. The government’s act of listening in on a conversation, even from outside of an enclosed phone booth constituted a search and seizure under the Fourth Amendment, where the speaker could justifiably rely on the booth to maintain privacy. The court went on to say that wiretapping is considered to be search under the Fourth Amendment, and that no physical intrusion is necessary.

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