Olmstead v. United States 277 US 438, 48 S. Ct. 564, 72 L.
Facts: The federal government
suspected the defendant of illegally smuggling alcohol during the Prohibition
era. In order to prove Olmstead’s involvement, the government wiretapped
Olmstead’s phones and received most of their evidence from the wiretapping. The
government did not receive a warrant or any kind of approval for the
Issue: The issue in
this case is whether the use of evidence from private telephone conversations
between the defendants and others, seized by wiretapping, resulted as a
violation of the Fourth and Fifth Amendments.
Decision: 5-4 Decision for the United States.
Reasoning: The Court decided at a vote of 5-4 that both the
Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights of the recorded parties were not violated.
use of wiretapped conversations as incriminating evidence doesn’t violate their
Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination because they were not
illegally made to have those conversations.
Fourth Amendment rights were not infringed because a wiretapping alone does not
equal a search and seizure under the Fourth Amendment. A search and seizure
actually refers to a physical examination of someone’s possessions.
Justice Brandeis wrote a dissenting opinion that differed
from the overall decision of the court. Brandeis believed that it is an
invasion of privacy and that the constitution should defend invasions of
personal privacy. Brandeis, along with the three other Justice’s that disagreed
with the ruling, also agreed that it was a violation of Olmstead’s Fourth Amendment
This case is very significant when it relates to illegal
search and seizures as they relate to technology. This court decided that the
government did not violate Olmstead’s Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights by
wiretapping. One thing to note on this case was that the government never
entered his property to place the wiretap, they wiretapped the phone lines
outside his property. This case was the beginning of a larger conversation that
has been discussed in other cases and laws, from Katz vs. United States to the
132 S. Ct. 945, 565 US 400, 181 L. Ed. 2d 911
Facts: Jones was
arrested for drug possession after an illegal tracker was placed on Jones’s
vehicle by police. No warrant was issued for the tracker.
Issue: The issue is
whether placing the tracker is grounds for a violation of the fourth amendment,
particularly an illegal search and seizure.
Reasoning: The Court decided at a unanimous vote that it is a
violation of the fourth amendment to place a tracker on a vehicle without a
fourth amendment states that people have a right to be secure with their
property. A vehicle is their property, which means that it creates an illegal
search by placing the tracker to check on Jones’s movement.
While all members of the court agreed in unanimous decision,
Justice Alito did have an opinion in difference with Justice Scallia. Justice
Alito believed that the questions should have been more focused on a violation
of a reasonable belief of privacy than illegal search and seizure. Justice
Sotomayor also released an opinion that focuses on privacy violation as well.
This case is also very significant when it relates to illegal
search and seizures as they relate to technology. The unanimous decision
against an illegal search is going to be an imperative decision as our
technology advances. I really like the differing opinion as well by Justice
Alito, and think that this could also be used as a way to discuss privacy as
Gideon v. Wainwright 372 US 335, 83 S. Ct. 792, 9 L. Ed. 2d
Facts: Gideon was
charged with a felony in Florida. He requested a lawyer, but was not given one
due to it not being required by Florida state law. Florida state law at this point
only required council during capital cases, not during felony cases
Issue: The issue in
this case is whether Gideon has a right to council under the sixth amendment
Decision: Unanimous Decision for the Gideon.
Reasoning: The Court decided with a unanimous decision that the
sixth amendment promises council as a fundamental right to anyone who needs it
in any criminal case.
only required council for capital cases previous to this ruling. Due to the sixth
amendment, which guarantees counsel, and the fourteenth amendment, which guarantees
a fair trial for all, Floridians now have a guarantee of council for all criminal
While there was a unanimous decision in this case, there were
a couple notable concurring opinions to this case. Justice Clark believed that the
constitution doesn’t change between non-capital and capital cases, and as such all
defendants should be provided council. Justice Harlan stated that any serious criminal
case should give access to council.
This case is significant when it relates to criminal defense as
a whole. Your simple civilian who does not know about criminal defense will be at
a severe disadvantage in a criminal court. Because of the sixth and fourteenth amendment,
as well as this case, all criminal defendants will receive equal council. Especially
in a time like this, where there are equality issues being discussed, this case
will be imperative.