• Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court allowed federal prosecutors in a criminal trial to use evidence obtained by wiretaps placed on outside telephone lines without a warrant, based on the idea that conversations were not protected by the Fourth Amendment. The ruling was reversed thirty-nine years later.

In convicting Roy Olmstead of illegally selling intoxicating liquors, federal prosecutors relied almost entirely on transcripts of his telephone conversations. Writing for a 5-4 majority, Chief Justice William H. TaftTaft, William H.;Olmstead v. United States[Olmstead v. United States] upheld the lower court’s ruling, concluding that the interception of a message outside a person’s home did not constitute a search and seizure within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment. Taft emphasized that government agents had not trespassed into Olmstead’s property, and he interpreted the term “effects” as referring only to tangible things. In dissent, Justice Louis D. Brandeis argued that the Fourth Amendment protected a broad right to individual privacy rather than simply material objects. The Supreme Court overturned Olmstead and accepted Brandeis’s viewpoint in the landmark decision Katz v. United States[case]Katz v. United States[Katz v. United States] (1967).Privacy, right to;Olmstead v. United States[Olmstead v. United States]

William Howard Taft served as president of the United States from 1909 to 1913, but his greatest ambition was to be chief justice–a position that he held from 1921 until his death in 1930.

(Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States)

Due process, procedural

Exclusionary rule

Fourth Amendment

Katz v. United States

Search warrant requirement

United States District Court, United States v.

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