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Katz v. United States

Supreme Court of the United States

October 17, 1967, Argued ; December 18, 1967, Decided

No. 35


 [****3]   [*348]   [***580]   [**509]  MR. JUSTICE STEWART delivered the opinion of the Court.

 The petitioner was convicted in the District Court for the Southern District of California under an eight-count indictment charging him with transmitting wagering information by telephone from Los Angeles to Miami and Boston, in violation of a federal statute. 1 [****4]  At trial the Government was permitted, over the petitioner's objection, to introduce evidence of the petitioner's end of telephone conversations, overheard by FBI agents who had attached an electronic listening and recording device to the outside of the public telephone booth from which he had placed his calls. In affirming his conviction, the Court of Appeals rejected the contention that the recordings had been obtained in violation of the Fourth Amendment,  [*349]  because "there was no physical entrance into the area occupied by [the petitioner]." 2 [**510]  We granted certiorari in order to consider the constitutional questions thus presented. 3


 [****5]  The  [***581]  petitioner has phrased those questions as follows:

"A. Whether a public telephone booth is a constitutionally protected area so that evidence obtained by attaching an electronic listening recording device to the top of such a booth is obtained in violation of the right to privacy of the user of the booth.

 [*350]  "B. Whether physical penetration of a constitutionally protected area is necessary before a search and seizure can be said to be violative of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution."

 We decline to adopt this formulation of the issues.  In the first place, the correct solution of Fourth Amendment problems is not necessarily promoted by incantation of the phrase "constitutionally protected area." Secondly, the Fourth Amendment cannot be translated into a general constitutional "right to privacy." That Amendment protects individual privacy against certain kinds of governmental intrusion, but its protections go further, and often have nothing to do with privacy at all. 4 Other [****6]  provisions of the Constitution protect personal privacy from other forms of governmental invasion. 5 [****7]  But the protection of a  [**511]  person's general right to privacy -- his right to be let alone by other people 6 -- is, like the  [*351]  protection of his property and of his very life, left largely to the law of the individual States. 7


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389 U.S. 347 *; 88 S. Ct. 507 **; 19 L. Ed. 2d 576 ***; 1967 U.S. LEXIS 2 ****



Disposition:  369 F.2d 130, reversed.


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Criminal Law & Procedure, Search & Seizure, Expectation of Privacy, Constitutional Law, Bill of Rights, Fundamental Freedoms, General Overview, Fundamental Rights, Scope of Protection, Substantive Due Process, Privacy, Torts, Trespass to Real Property, Defenses, First Amendment, Eavesdropping, Electronic Surveillance & Wiretapping, Warrantless Eavesdropping, Search Warrants, Warrants, Probable Cause, Warrantless Searches, Exigent Circumstances, Reasonable & Prudent Standard, Issuance by Neutral & Detached Magistrate