The Case “Doe v. City of Intrusia”:
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In this assignment, you will be a Supreme Court Justice deciding on a Fourth Amendment case. Carefully read about the case in question, the summaries of related Supreme Court decisions, and directions for the assignment.
The Case “Doe v. City of Intrusia”:
Trouble was brewing in the small, quiet city of Intrusia. Someone was selling methamphetamine to the local teenagers and a popular football player died after an overdose. The community was panicked and demanded that the police find the source of the meth and shut it down immediately. The police suspected that 20 year old Joe Doe was selling the meth but they didn’t have much evidence.
The state prosecutor advised the police department to talk with the local cell phone carrier about “cloning” Mr. Doe’s phone. The cell phone carrier created a “clone” phone which allowed the police to read text messages sent and received by Mr. Doe. In no time the police had evidence implicating Mr. Doe as a dealer and the location of the meth lab. Mr. Doe was convicted and the meth lab was closed.
Mr. Doe is appealing his conviction, claiming that the interception of text messages violated the unreasonable search and seizure protections of the Fourth Amendment. Furthermore, all evidence from the text messages should have been excluded from his trial.
The City of Intrusia argues that there was no physical intrusion into Mr. Doe’s space and that police were acting quickly in order to uphold their duty to protect the community’s safety.
In Silverman v. United States the Supreme Court held that that the Fourth Amendment does not protect conversations, therefore wiretapping does not constitute a search and seizure. The case was reversed in Katz v. United States, when Justice Harlan proposed a two pronged test of whether public actions should be considered private and therefore protected. 1) Has the person exhibited an expectation of privacy? and 2) is the expectation of privacy one that society is prepared to recognize as ‘reasonable.’
In more recent decisions, the Supreme Court has found that society is not prepared to extend privacy rights to bank customers regarding their bank statements and that society was not prepared to recognize a privacy right-to grow a backyard crop of marijuana.
• Does the Fourth Amendment protect text messages sent over a cell phone?
• Is there a “reasonable expectation of privacy” when texts are sent?
o Did Mr. Doe exhibit an expectation of privacy when he sent the texts?
o Is there a societal expectation of privacy in the process of text messaging?
Related Supreme Court Decisions (each case is linked to a short description on Oyez.com):
Olmstead v. United States (1928)
Did the use of evidence disclosed in wiretapped private telephone conversations; violate the recorded party’s Fourth and Fifth Amendments?
Katz v. United States (1967)
Does the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable searches and seizures require the police to obtain a search warrant in order to wiretap a public pay phone?
United States v. Miller (1975)
Were Miller’s bank records illegally seized in violation of the Fourth Amendment?
Smith v. Maryland (1979)
Does the installation and use of a pen register constitute a search under the Fourth Amendment?
California v. Ciraolo (1986)
Did the warrantless, aerial observation of Ciraolo’s back yard from an altitude of 1,000 feet constitute an illegal search and violate the Fourth Amendment?
Bond v. United States (2000)
Does a law enforcement officer’s physical manipulation of a bus passenger’s carry-on luggage violate the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable searches?
Kyllo v. United States (2001)
Does the use of a thermal-imaging device to detect relative amounts of heat emanating from a private home constitute an unconstitutional search in violation of the Fourth Amendment?
• Write an opinion as if you were a judge deciding this case. Please note that the term “opinion” here does NOT mean an expression of your personal views! Instead, it means a formal statement of the legal reasons and principles defending your conclusion of whether text messages are protected under the Fourth Amendment.
• To help you in making your decision, please read the summaries of past Fourth Amendment rulings.
• As you read through the Supreme Court decisions above, look at how justices have crafted their decisions, and learn from them. Use these as models for your paper.
• Write clearly and concisely. State your decision, and defend it.
• Cite precedent and the Constitution.
• Refer to at least 3 of the cases featured above.
• Write a minimum of 500 words.
• Use college-level writing.