The Warren Court (1953–69)

Criminal Procedure and Constitutional Rights

What Warren Court decision became the leading search-and-seizure precedent dealing with privacy rights?

The U.S. Supreme Court established in Katz v. United States (1967) that the Fourth Amendment privacy protections applied to “people, not places.” The case involved the wiretapping of a public phone booth to record the gambling phone calls of defendant Charles Katz. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) wiretapped the phone without obtaining a warrant. Katz contended that he had a right to privacy in his telephone calls. He alleged that government officials violated the Fourth Amendment because they did not seek a warrant backed by probable cause but had illegally wiretapped the phone. The government argued to the Court that Katz had no Fourth Amendment rights in the phone calls because he made such calls from a public phone. The Court agreed with Katz, finding that the government should have obtained a warrant based on probable cause from a magistrate before eavesdropping on the phone calls.


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