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California v. Ciraolo


The decision of the Supreme Court to uphold the lower court's conviction was, by no means, unanimous. Only by one vote, did the majority opinion prevail. The majority opinion held that a citizen's right to privacy in the home and its curtilage did not include ability to engage in unlawful conduct. The opinion of dissenting justices, however, also expressed serious reservations as to whether the Court had failed to enforce Fourth Amendment rights pertaining to personal security, liberty and private property. Dissenting justices strongly believed that open air space should not deprive citizens of either their private interest inside the home or intrude on their activities around private property. Non-routine, warrantless flight over the homes of private citizens broke the basic principles of the right to privacy under the Fourth Amendment. In an opinion appending the dissenting justices' arguments, Justice John Marshall Harlan II accurately predicted that developing technology would always require the court to continuously reexamine the possibility that constitutional rights could be subverted through technology. He observed that interpretation of privacy rights protected by the Fourth Amendment "should not be limited to prescribing only physical intrusions onto private property" because "it is, in the present day, bad physics as well as bad law, for reasonable expectations of privacy may be defeated by electronic as well as physical invasion."

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1981 to 1988California v. Ciraolo - Significance, Unresonable Search And Seizure, The Liability Of Open Airspace, Impact