Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Amendment Rights


Fourth,Fifth and Sixth Amendment Rights


The Supreme Courtof the United States has handled many legal cases referred from lowercourts. Some of the cases have descended from contested rulings madein Appellate Courts throughout the Districts. Notwithstanding thesource of contention, the judgments passed by the Supreme Court havehad a massive impact on American society. The Constitution of theUnited States has been lauded as a masterpiece in law and governance.The decrees and statutes held by the Constitution guide the entirejustice system from the lowest to the highest courts. As the ultimatedecision-maker, the Supreme Court defends the Constitution in nouncertain terms. The Bill of Rights forms a significant portion ofthe US Constitution. It outlines ten Amendments that protect the ruleof law and safeguard the rights of American citizens (Ackerman &ampGinsberg, 2015). Some cases have had a fundamental impact on how thelaw is interpreted and applied.

Katzv. United States, 389 US 347 (1967)

This case wasargued before the Supreme Court on October 17, 1967 and decided onDecember 18, 1967. The issue presented before the Court concerned thenature of the constitutional right to privacy. The case also soughtto clarify the legal implications of search and seizure. The Courtclassified intrusion through technology as a legal search. Thedecision of the Court overruled the precedents set in previous casessuch as Goldman v. United States and Olmstead v. UnitedStates. The inclusion of immaterial intrusion under the legalclassification of a search refined the Fourth Amendment. Previousrenderings of the unreasonable search and seizure clause overlookedthe use of technology to acquire information from suspects (USSupreme Court). The Supreme Court also enhanced the protectionaccorded under the Fourth Amendment to cover situations where aperson reasonably expects privacy.

Charles Katz hadused a public telephone to transmit illicit wagering information fromLos Angeles to Boston and Miami. Sending such information acrossstate lines was a gross infringement of 18 U.S.C. § 1084. The FBIdeployed an electronic device on the outside of the booth used byKatz. The listening and recording device captured the conversationsof Katz. FBI agents used the information gathered on the device asevidence to convict Katz. The defendant challenged the convictionsince the recordings were obtained unbeknownst to him. In particular,Katz argued that the FBI agents violated his Fourth Amendment rights.However, the Court of Appeals had affirmed the original ruling. Thismeant that the Fourth Amendment rights of the defendant were notviolated (US Supreme Court). The Appellate Court cited the fact thatthere was no physical intrusion into the personal space of thepetitioner.

Katz presentedtwo constitutional questions for the Court to deliberate. The firstissue concerned whether a public telephone booth could be rendered asa constitutionally protected area. In this regard, evidence obtainedfrom a listening device attached to the enclosure would violate theprivacy of the user. The Court had to consider whether the right toprivacy applied not only to telephone booths but also other publicspaces. The second question concerned whether a physical intrusioninto a constitutionally protected area was necessary before theFourth Amendment was said to have been violated (US Supreme Court).The Court had to consider whether a search and seizure was renderedillegal solely by physical penetration.

The Supreme Courtruled 7-1 for the petitioner. Justice Hugo Black was in dissent whileJustice Thurgood Marshall neither participated in the considerationnor contributed to the decision. The Court ruled that the Governmenthad violated the petitioner’s privacy by attaching the recordingdevice to the exterior of the booth. Eavesdropping in this mannercould be classified as a search and seizure in the context of theFourth Amendment. The petitioner was justified to rely on a measureof privacy when using the public pay phone. The Fourth Amendment wasnot limited to the search and seizure of physical items. It couldalso be applied to illegal recordings of utterances.

Besides, theFourth Amendment was designed to protect people. Therefore, placescould not be included under the cover of protection. In this regard,the absence of physical intrusion did not justify the violation ofprivacy. Wiretapping a conversation could still be construed as asearch. A conversation made in a public place still meritedprotection under the Fourth Amendment. This was especially true wherethe conversation was conducted with a reasonable expectation ofprivacy. The ruling overturned the trespass doctrine adopted inprevious cases such as Goldman v. United States, 316 U.S. 129and Olmstead v. United States, 277 U.S. 438 (US SupremeCourt). Furthermore, the electronic surveillance used in this casewas obtained in violation to established warrant procedure.Constitutionally, authorization was a precondition for the deploymentof surveillance.

Charles Katz hadbeen convicted in the Southern District of California. He had beenfound guilty of eight counts of transmitting illegal wageringinformation across state lines. The District Court permitted theGovernment to introduce evidence obtained from a recording device.The petitioner’s objections were disregarded. Besides, the Court ofAppeals upheld the decision made by the lower court. The contentionbetween the Katz and the Government lay in the description of thetelephone booth (US Supreme Court). The petitioner considered thebooth as constitutionally protected while the Government held acontrary view.

However,approaching the case in this manner would seem to imply that theFourth Amendment served to protect places. The Fourth Amendment didnot protect anything that a person chose to expose to the public.Therefore, items in a home or office could be knowingly exposed in amanner that would disqualify them from Fourth Amendment protection.On the other hand, whatever a person chose to preserve as privatewould merit constitutional protection. This would still suffice evenwhen the private matter was conducted in a public area. The boothused by Katz was made partly of glass. While inside the booth, hecould still be seen from the outside. Nevertheless, he did notrelinquish his right to privacy just because he could be seen (USSupreme Court). Katz had the right to expect some measure of privacydue to the Fourth Amendment clause.

The fact thatKatz shut the door behind him and paid for the necessary tollautomatically shows that he wanted privacy. The words that he utteredto the person(s) on the other side were private and confidential. TheFBI agents had no right to record his call let alone hear his words.Furthermore, the recordings could not be used as evidence in a courtof law. Public telephones could still be used as a means of relayingprivate information. The FBI had also deployed the device withoutfirst seeking authorization. Due process required the judges topresent their probable cause for deliberation by a neutral judge. Thejudicial officer would then set proper limits on how far the searchwould go. For example, the recording device could have unlawfullycaptured the private conversations of other people that used thebooth. Every person was entitled to freedom from illegal search andseizures regardless of their physical location (US Supreme Court).Since the surveillance was conducted without due process and also ledto the petitioner’s conviction, the Supreme Court decided toreverse the decision.

Importance of Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Amendments

The FourthAmendment upholds the right of a person to be free from unreasonablesearch and seizure. Therefore, a person had the right to feel securein their houses, effects, persons, and papers (Ackerman &ampGinsberg, 2015). This right could only be violated upon the issue ofa warrant based on probable cause. The warrant had to describe theexact place that would be searched and the things or persons to beseized. The Fifth Amendment upholds the right to remain silent and tobenefit from due process. Under this protection, a person would notbe compelled to answer for any offense unless the individual appearedbefore a Grand Jury.

However, thisprovision was superseded in times of War or public turmoil. Besides,the Fifth Amendment protects a person from being charged with thesame offense multiple times after initial acquittal or incarceration.A person is also protected from being a witness against himself inany criminal case. Due process of the law had to be followed to thelatter before a person was deprived of property, liberty, or life(Ackerman &amp Ginsberg, 2015). The government and other nationalcorporations are also barred from seizing private property for publicuse without providing fair compensation.

The SixthAmendment guarantees the right to counsel in criminal prosecutions.The accused persons have various rights protected by theConstitution. For example, the accused have the right to a speedy andpublic trial. The jury selected to deliberate the proceedings of acriminal case needs to be impartial and representative of the entireState. The accused must also be notified of the crimes and chargesagainst him and the possible punitive measures for each. The accusedmust also be allowed to know and confront the witnesses testifyingagainst his innocence. The Sixth Amendment also safeguards the rightof an accused person to build his defense (Ackerman &amp Ginsberg,2015). During this period, the accused person could acquire witnesseswilling to testify on his behalf. The constitution also ensured thatthe defendant retained the right to have qualified and competentcounsel build his defense.

In a typical UScourt case, the Sixth Amendment offered the most protection to thedefendant. The Fourth Amendment protects the innocence and privacy ofan American citizen. However, the premonition of guilt throughprobable cause nullifies the protection provided by the FourthAmendment. A neutral magistrate can still issue a valid warrant. Sucha directive would circumvent the right to be free from unreasonablesearch and seizure. The Fifth Amendment also protects fundamentalrights by emphasizing the importance of due process.

Nevertheless, theSixth Amendment offers the most protection due to its applicationunder different circumstances. It guarantees several rights of theaccused irrespective of the nature of the crime. The accused retainedthe right to fairness and consideration in the court of publicopinion. The innocence of the accused person was maintained until aconfession or conviction was announced. The Sixth Amendment alsooffers the most protection since it remains standard in all states.It leaves no rooms for jurisdictional interpretation of the law(Epstein &amp Walker, 2015). The Sixth Amendment prevents ills suchas lengthy incarceration, secret trials, partial judges, biasedjuries, anonymous witnesses, and unavailable counsel.

TheFifth Amendment in Miranda v. Arizona

The FifthAmendment is important in that it emphasizes adherence to the rule oflaw despite mitigating circumstances. A Grand Jury is needed to passjudgment before a case proceeds to trial. A single judge orprosecutor could not under any circumstances decide whether thereexisted reasonable suspicion and supporting evidence. The accusedcould be held for up to 48 hours to allow them time to acquirefeedback from a Grand Jury. The Fifth Amendment also prohibitsmultiple trials for the same crime. A person is also protected fromtestifying against himself. In this regard, words uttered underduress, coercion, or before the charges were read were inadmissiblein court (Ackerman &amp Ginsberg, 2015). The protection of this lawwas also extended to persons unaware of suspicion against them.

Miranda v.Arizona had key events in which police violated the Fifth Amendmentrights. Firstly, Ernesto Miranda was not apprised of his right tocounsel. He had to be informed of the provision to consult with aState-provided lawyer in case he could not afford privaterepresentation. Miranda also had the right to have an attorneypresent during interrogation. Law enforcement neglected to advise himof his rights in this regard. The police officers also coercedMiranda into incriminating himself. He had a right to be warnedagainst testifying against himself and signing a confessionstatement. The lack of prior warnings thereby renders his apparentconfession inadmissible (Wrightsman &amp Pitman, 2010). Signing astatement with a clause emphasizing full knowledge of his legalrights did not nullify his constitutional rights.

TheFourth Amendment

The FourthAmendment safeguards against unlawful search and seizure in variousways. For example, it requires the issue of a valid search warrantbefore a search is conducted. The warrant must be motivated byprobable cause. Also, a neutral judge has to be involved in issuingthe order. The judicial officer must ascertain that the warrant hasjustifiable merits. The warrant must also stipulate the exact placedue to search and the persons or items to be seized (Ackerman &ampGinsberg, 2015). Mapp v. Ohio (1961) set the precedent inrendering evidence obtained illegally as inadmissible. The FourthAmendment also protects an individual’s privacy in addition to hisproperty. Katz v. United States (1967) set the precedent byrequiring a warrant before conducting wiretaps. The Fourth Amendmentalso safeguards against arbitrary arrests and stop-and-friskoperations. Searches and seizures cannot be conducted merely on thebasis of rumors and hearsay.

TheTwo Prong Test

Katz v. USA(1967) set a precedent for the two prong test later used to determinethe reasonable expectation of privacy. Firstly, the individual mustshow an actual expectation of privacy. Charles Katz had entered thetelephone booth and locked the door behind him. Paying for the tollcharged for the call also showed his expectation of privacy. Thesecond aspect concerns the society`s determination that such privacywas reasonable and warranted. The telephone booth used by Katz wasaccessible to members of the public. However, each user waited inline once the booth was occupied. This shows that people recognizedthe right of an individual to use the booth at his convenience andwithout undue interference (Epstein &amp Walker, 2015). Therefore,the use of the pay phone booth by Katz satisfies the two prong testfor the reasonable expectation of privacy.


The 9/11terrorist attacks in the capital led to a broad change in policy andprocedure. Perhaps the most radical of these changes was theenactment of the PATRIOT Act. The statutes under this Act providedthe government with more autonomy and flexibility. Allowing thegovernment access to electronic technologies has violated theholdings in the Katz v. USA case. The case had established therules to be used in enacting surveillance of any sort. A properwarrant had to be obtained before deploying electronic surveillance(Epstein &amp Walker, 2015). However, the PATRIOT Act rendered thisdirective obsolete by granting the government unlimited access topersonal information.


Ackerman, E. &amp Ginsberg, B. (2015). A guide to the UnitedStates Constitution. New York, NY: W.W. Norton &amp Company.

Epstein, L. &amp Walker, T. G. (2015). Constitutional law for achanging America: Rights, liberties, and justice. Washington,D.C.: CQ Press.

United States Supreme Court. Katz v. United States, (1967).Retrieved from

United States Supreme Court. Miranda v. Arizona, (1966).Retrieved from

Wrightsman, L. S. &amp Pitman, M. L. (2010). The Miranda ruling:Its past, present, and future. Oxford, Mississippi: OxfordUniversity Press.