Recent landmark U.S. Supreme Court rulings on 4th Amendment issues

From Katz vs. United States to the present, landmark U.S. Supreme Court rulings on 4th Amendment issues

1967, – Katz vs. United States: The user of a public phone booth had an expectation of privacy; law enforcement needs a search warrant to electronically eavesdrop.

1968, Terry vs. Ohio: The Exclusionary Rule, barring use of illegally obtained evidence against a defendant, cannot be invoked to exclude the products of legitimate and restrained police investigative techniques such as “stop and frisk” searches of outerwear.

1973, Schneckloth vs. Bustamonte: The consent given police to search the car of a driver stopped for a traffic violation is valid even if the driver was unaware he had the right to refuse.


1976, United States vs. Janis: The Exclusionary Rule isn’t applicable in civil forfeiture proceedings.

1976, United States vs. Martinez-Fuertes: The 4th Amendment doesn’t categorically require “individualized suspicion” for police to stop a car near the Mexican border in which the occupants were later determined to be illegal aliens.

1978, Zurcher vs. Stanford Daily: Police had probable cause to search the campus newsroom for photographs that could identify assailants in a violent clash between police and protesters; the Constitution doesn’t prohibit search warrants where the press is involved.

1984, Leon vs. United States: A “good faith” exception is recognized in allowing evidence seized on the basis of a mistakenly issued search warrant to be introduced at trial. The exclusionary rule is not a right but a remedy to deter illegal police conduct.

1991, County of Riverside vs. McLaughlin: A probable cause hearing for an arrestee can be combined with arraignment if conducted within 48 hours.

2001, Kyllo vs. United States: Use of thermal imaging technology to detect excessive heat levels inside the home of a man suspected of growing marijuana under heat lamps constitutes a search that is presumptively unreasonable without a warrant.

2002, Board of Education vs. Earls: Tecumseh, Okla., school district authorities didn’t need probable cause to suspect drug use by students required to submit to drug testing to participate in extracurricular activities.

2007, Los Angeles County vs. Rettele: The 4th Amendment was not violated when deputies rousted a couple out of bed and forced them to stand unclothed while they searched their home with a warrant for possibly armed suspects of a different race.


2008, ACLU vs. NSA: Supreme Court denies review of a U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals dismissal of the lawsuit challenging the National Security Agency’s secret access to citizens’ telecommunications records.

2009, Safford vs. Redding: While the strip-searching of a 13-year-old student by school authorities looking for drugs was a violation of her 4th Amendment rights, the officials who carried out the search were deemed immune from liability.

2010, Ontario vs. Quon: The search of a city police officer’s text messages by his government employer was reasonable because public employees don’t have an expectation of privacy in using employer-provided telecommunications.

Sources: Cornell University and University of Santa Clara law schools, Times reporting