Katz v. United States – Case Brief

Criminal Procedure

Procedural History:
• Convicted of transmitting wagering information.
• Reversed.

Facts:
• Police placed a listening device outside of a public telephone booth.
• Katz was being suspected of transmitting gambling information from that public telephone booth.
• Using the information obtained from the listening device on the public telephone booth, Katz was charged with transmitting wagering information.

Issue:
• Is placing a listening device on the outside of a telephone booth violating a person’s fourth amendment rights?

Holding:
• Yes. A person has a reasonable expectation of privacy when having a conversation in a public telephone booth.
Reasoning:
• The 4th amendment protects persons not places.
• It is not about whether the area, aka the booth, is protected but actually about whether a person would have the expectation that their privacy would be protected.
• The 4th amendment protects that which you try to make private.
• What matters is whether the person had an expectation of privacy with respect to their conversation.
• The government made the argument that this was a glass phone booth, anyone could have seen him.
o However it is not about the intruding eye, but the intruding ear.
• 4th amendment rights are triggered when you are somewhere where you have an expectation of privacy.

Justice Black Dissent
• Does not believe eavesdropping is tangible.
• Does not believe the 4th amendment applies here.
• Thinks that if the framers wanted to protect people from eavesdropping, it existed at the time of the drafting, so if they wanted to protect people from it, then they would have put it in.

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