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Katz v. United States

The Pros And Cons Of Wiretapping

In 1928, the Supreme Court in Olmstead v. United States ruled that neither the Fourth nor the Fifth Amendments prevented law-enforcement authorities from conducting wiretapping of a criminal suspect. But with Katz, the Court found within the Fourth Amendment grounds for an expectation of privacy. These two decisions suggest the polarities surrounding wiretapping, and indeed any number of other constitutional questions: the right of privacy on the other hand, and the need to preserve public order on the other.

Though the Constitution contains no explicit mention of a "right to privacy," the idea is implied throughout the document, as it is in the rights to "liberty . . . and the pursuit of happiness" referred to in the Declaration of Independence.

Because of justified public fears concerning the power of government to invade private lives, Congress has passed a number of measures to limit wiretapping. Yet the practice clearly has legitimate uses, under strict probable-cause guidelines: the FBI's virtual destruction of the Gotti crime family, and by extension most of the Mafia, was due in large part to bugs on Cosa Nostra meetings during the 1980s and early 1990s.

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Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1963 to 1972Katz v. United States - Significance, The Pros And Cons Of Wiretapping