Surveillance

Click on the case titles to link to the full case decision.

Silverman v. US, 365 U.S. 505 (1961)-Officers entered the attached residence next to the petitioner. The officers pushed a listening devise into the petitioner's residence until it contacted the the air ducts. The devise allowed the officers to listen to conversations in the petitioner's residence. The officers violated the petitioner's Fourth Amendment rights because the officers did not obtain a warrant.

Lopez v. US, 373 US 427 (1963)-An undercover officer can use a hidden tape recorder. The recorder was used to obtain the most reliable evidence of the conversation between the officer and the suspect.

Berger v. New York, 388 U. S. 41 (1967)-New York's eavesdropping law did not:

The broadness of the statute violated the Fourth Amendment.

Katz v. United States, 389 US 347(1967)-Earlier rulings from the court, particularly the Olmstead case, said that the government can eavesdrop on constitutionally protected areas without a warrant as long as the government does not physically penetrate the areas to accomplish the eavesdrop. The court stated in the Katz case the following: "We conclude that the underpinnings of Olmstead (Olmstead v. United States, 277 U.S. 438) and Goldman (Goldman v. United States, 316 U.S. 129) have been so eroded by our subsequent decisions that the "trespass" doctrine there enunciated can no longer be regarded as controlling. The Government's activities in electronically listening to and recording the petitioner's words violated the privacy upon which he justifiably relied while using the telephone booth and thus constituted a "search and seizure" within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment. The fact that the electronic device employed to achieve that end did not happen to penetrate the wall of the booth can have no constitutional significance. "

US v. US District Court, 407 U.S. 297 (1972)-The President's Constitutional powers to protect the country do not allow the circumvention of the Fourth Amendment requirement of judicial approval of wiretaps. This applies to domestic security cases.

Dalia v. US, 441 US 238 (1979)-The Fourth Amendment does not prohibit a covert entry to install electronic listening devices. The court approving the warrant does not have to explicitly authorize the covert entry to install the equipment.

Smith v. Maryland, 442 US 735 (1979)-The use of a pen register that records only phone numbers does not constitute a search within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment.

United States v. Knotts, 460 U.S. 276 (1983)-A beeper was placed into a can of chloroform with the consent of the then-owner. The can was turned over to Knotts and he placed it in his vehicle. The vehicle drove only in public areas. The use of a tracking devise on an automobile traveling on public roadways is neither a "search" nor "seizure" and a warrant is not required.

US v. Karo, 468 U.S. 705 (1984)-A tracking devise hid inside an object cannot be used to reveal information about the inside of a residence without a warrant.

US v. Ishmael, 48 F.3d 850 (5th Cir. 1995)-The use of a thermal imager in an open field does not offend the Fourth Amendment.

US v. Garcia, 474 F.3d 994 (7th Cir. 2007)-The GPS tracking of a suspect's vehicle is not a search and does not need a warrant.

US v. Bucci, 582 F.3d 108 (1st Cir. 2009)-Police placed a pole camera across the street from Bucci’s house. The camera was pointed on the front of Bucci’s house including his garage. Bucci sued claiming a Fourth Amendment violation by the police for conducting almost constant surveillance of his residence with the camera.  The Court held that Bucci had no expectation of privacy in the areas he exposes to public view. There was no violation.

US v. Pineda–Moreno, 591 F.3d 1212, 1217 (9th Cir. 2010)-A person does not have an expectation of privacy in their unsecured driveway. It is not a 4th Amendment violation to enter onto this part of the curtilage and afix a GPS tracking device to a vehicle.

Glik v. Cunniffe, 10-1764 (1st Cir 2011)-Massachusetts had a wiretap law that forbad the secret audio recording of another person. Glik was in plain view in Boston Common using his cell phone to video and audio record police officers using force against a subject during an arrest. One of the officers arrested Glik for violating the Massachusetts wiretap law. The court held, “Such peaceful recording of an arrest in a public space that does not interfere with the police officers’ performance of their duties is not reasonably subject to limitation.” Glik was openly showing his phone as he recorded. His actions were lawful and his arrest was a violation of his rights.

US v. Jones, ____ US 10–1259 (2012)-Held: "The Government’s attachment of the GPS device to the vehicle, and its use of that device to monitor the vehicle’s movements, constitutes a search under the Fourth Amendment." This case differs from Knotts in that the government intruded onto Jone's vehicle and hid a GPS tracking device. This device enabled the government to track in detail every movement of the vehicle, even into private areas.

US v. Graham, No. 12-4659 (4th Cir 2016)-The defendants were being investigated for a series of armed robberies. The Government obtained the historical cell-site location information from the defendants' cell phone provider without a warrant. This information provided the location of the cell tower (usually the nearest) that transmitted a signal when the defendants used their cell phones. The information was used to place the defendants in the areas of the robberies when they occurred. The Court held that individuals have no expectation of privacy in information shared with third-parties (in this case the cell phone provider receiving information on the tower location). There is no Fourth Amendment violation.