Differences between the Constitution and constitutional law

Supreme Court Decisions

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Differences between the Constitution and constitutional law

Constitution is an existing article. It lays down the functions of the three governmental organs which are the Executive, -the Judiciary and the Legislature; promulgate rules ; demarcate the responsibilities and principles whereas, the constitutional law covers and denote the fundamental law of the land as enclosed in the proviso of the constitution. The basis of the Constitutional law is formed by the judicial that makes decisions upon the various articles in the constitution (Law, 2013).

“Unreasonable search” and the U.S. Supreme Court decisions

The 4th Amendment of the Constitution states that the right of the US people to be secure in their houses, persons, papers, and property, against unreasonable seizures and searches, cannot be violated, and no Warrants can subject, in case of a possible cause, supported by judicial affirmation and has a description of the place to be searched and the things or people to be seized. In the Fourth Amendment, seizures thus including arresting and search and is limited in regards to specific information abounding to the issuing court, regularly by a law enforcing officer sworn by it.

The Fourth Amendment case law answers three essential questions: what government activities comprise “search” and “seizure”; what comprises the possible reason for these actions; and how to handle the violations of Fourth Amendment rights.  The content of the Fourth Amendment does not describe precisely what “unreasonable search” is. The outliners of the constitution left the words “unreasonable search” undone so that the Supreme Court can interpret. Therefore, by looking at the content of the Fourth Amendment, the words “unreasonable search” is vague and it’s the duty of the Supreme Court to define the vagueness of the words (Easterbrook, 2008).

Olmstead v. United States

Who is Mr. Olmstead and what happened to him?

Mr. Olmstead is a business man who owned a large bootlegging business out of Washington State in the Prohibition period. His employees ranged from 50-70 and he used to give them orders via the telephone. The Government agents prohibited the law by ignoring the laws of Washington State and trapping telephone wires of Olmstead as well as for his employees. There was almost 800 pages of proof gotten thus was accordingly transcribed, and admitted in verification, more than the timely opposition of the defendant. Olmstead was condemned, and the petition went to the Supreme Court (Law, 2013).

How did the Supreme Court define the term “search?

The petitioners declared that the wiretaps was an “unreasonable search and seizure” as mentioned in the 4th Amendment, and the proof that was obtained amounted to a conviction of the defendants to be their own witnesses against themselves, and they had violated the 5th Amendment (Easterbrook, 2008).

What happened in Olmstead v. United States, 277 U.S. 438 (1928)

The Olmstead v. United States, 277 U.S 438 (1928) was a judgment of the United states supreme court, whereby the court evaluated the use of wiretapped private telephone dialogue, obtained by the federal agent without any judicial authorization and consequently used as proof, comprised a violation of the defendant rights given by the 4th and 5th.amendments.

What are the facts of the case?

The “mode of obtaining the proof is a misdemeanor and unethical within the law of Washington “Olmstead v. United states 277 U.S 438 at courts judgment. Therefore while making the 4 and 5 decision; the Court holds that neither the 4th nor the 5th Amendment rights of the defendant were violated.

The Supreme Court concludes the government could listen to Mr. Olmstead’s phone calls without a warrant?

The Supreme Court concluded that the government could listen to Mr. Olmstead’s phone calls without a warrant since the defendant was involved in illegal business of sale, transport and possession of liquor and there were involved crimes such as conspiracy. He had violated the National prohibition Act and the government is interested with the case.

What does physical presence have to do with the Supreme Court’s analysis?

The sensible analysis is that anyone who installs a telephone instrument in his house with linking wires, aims to venture his voice to those quite outside, and that the wires beyond his house and messages while passing over them are not under the protection of the 4th Amendment”. The common-law rules that the acceptability of proof is not affected by the misdemeanor by the means in which it was obtained

Does this definition mean that listening to a phone conversation was not a “search” under the Fourth Amendment?

In this case listening to the phone conversation was not a search under the 4th amendment since the wires were inserted along the normal telephone wires and they did not trespass on the defendant property or the officer’s homes. The wires were made within the basement of a large office building and the taps were made in the streets near the houses.

The justices who wrote the Olmstead opinion

The justice who stated the Olmstead opinion did not have much experience since phones were the new communication devices and there was always a suspicion of illegal business communication. In modern days it is illegal to trap ones personal conversation without his acknowledgement and may result to paying a certain amount of fine to compensate the person whose rights have been infringed.

Who was Mr. Katz, and what happened to him?

Charles Katz was a business man that dealt with gambling. He one day utilized a public phone ( booth)in transmitting prohibited gambling wagers in other parts of America such as Miami and Boston from Los Angeles. Not knowing to Katz, the FBI had placed an electronic eaves dropping device that was recording his conversations. The eavesdropping device had been placed at the outer walls of the booth phone. Katz was condemned regarding the recordings. He disputed this conviction, opposing that the recordings had been obtained in breach to his 4th amendment rights. The Court of Appeals supported the FBI since there had been no substantial intrusion in the phone itself. The Supreme Court granted certiorari, demonstrating it may be involved in analyzing the case. Within Katz v. United States case, of 389 U.S. 347 (1967), Katz is convicted of illegal gambling regarding the evidence provided from attaching the device. The Supreme Court declares that Katz’s Fourth Amendment rights had been violated.

The Fourth Amendment only defends people, and not their places. What an individual intentionally represents to the public, whether at his office or at home, is not a subject matter to Fourth Amendment defense. However what one tries to protect as private, even if it is in an area open to the public, is constitutionally protected (Katz v. United States, 1967). In this case, the Supreme Court rules out that Katz has a right to anticipate privacy since he uses the telephone booth and closes the door. Hence, the presence of the concealed device violates the privacy that Katz justly relies when placing his calls and this is interpreted as a search by the Supreme Court.

Explain in detail the Supreme Court’s legal conclusions in this case

The Supreme Court concluded that the recording of the petitioners words infringed the privacy law when he justly relied in using the booth and it constituted a ‘search and in the Fourth Amendment. Despite the location, a conversation is secluded from unreasonable search and seizure under the Fourth Amendment when it is made with a “reasonable expectation of privacy”. Wiretapping is regarded as a search

Why did it overrule Olmstead, and what does the law now say about the government’s ability to use wiretapped evidence without a warrant in a criminal case?

This interpretation differs from Olmstead v. United States however with Katz v. United States; the Supreme Court holds that its defense for instance the requirement of a warrant broadens to the physical locations as well as the individual’s privacy. Law enforcement officers requires a warrant for most search and seizure actions, never the less the Court defines a sequence of exceptions for motor vehicle and consent searches, border searches, exigent circumstances, evidence in plain view and other situations(Baker, 2004).

You should point out at least four differences between the rulings in the two cases

Any person occupying a telephone booth shuts the door behind him meaning

The talk is private and pays the toll which permits him to make the call and assumes that the words he utters shall not be a broadcast from the mouth piece to the world.

that an enclosed telephone booth is an area where, like a home, and unlike a field, a person has a constitutionally protected reasonable expectation of privacy;

that physical as well as electronic intrusion into a place that is in this sense private may amount to a violation of the Fourth Amendment;

That an assault of a constitutionally protected area by federal authorities is, as the Court has long held, presumptively unreasonable in lack of a search warrant.



Law, R. (2013). Surveillance, Law and Policy in the 21st Century. Newsletter of

The law & courts section of the American political science association, 41.

Easterbrook, F. (2008). On Constitutional Changes to Limit Government.

Reprint. (102),(469).

Baker, T. E. (2004). Journal of Constitutional Theory in a Nutshell: Wm. & Mary Bill

Rights. Vol. 13(57)