Right to solitude, independence, security in one’s own home and possessions, self-determination, and self-definition.
The right to privacy, which is defined in many ways, is not explicitly guaranteed by the Constitution. However, the Supreme Court interpreted many of the amendments of the Bill of Rights as providing some protection to a variety of elements of individual privacy against intrusive government activities. These include the First Amendment freedoms of expression and association, the Third Amendment restriction on quartering of soldiers in private residences, the Fourth Amendment prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures, the due process clause and guarantee against self-incrimination of the Fifth Amendment, the Ninth and Tenth Amendment reservations of power in the people and the states, and the due process and equal protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment.
George Orwell's 1949 novel Nineteen Eighty-Four depicted a grim future world in which civil liberties do not exist and privacy is unknown.
The Court first applied the term “privacy” to interests protected by the Fourth Amendment in Boyd v. United States
The Court found a subjective expectation of privacy encompassed by the Fourth Amendment
The First Amendment
Privacy is considered an aspect of the Fifth Amendment’s
The Fourth Amendment protects citizens’ property from seizure by the government and their homes and persons from arbitrary or warrantless searches. The Fourth Amendment recognizes a right of personal privacy and protects against arbitrary intrusions by law enforcement officials. The Framers were sensitive to the need to insulate people from unlimited governmental powers of search and seizure. Writing for the Court in Katz v. United States
The Fourth Amendment also states that no warrants should be issued without probable cause, a concept without a precise meaning.
Under federal law, officers are required to knock and announce their arrival at the place to be searched in order to reduce the potential for violence and to protect the occupants’ right of privacy. In Wilson v. Arkansas
The Court held that certain exceptional situations do not require warrants before conducting a search. Searches in which a warrant is not necessary include searches incidental to a lawful arrest (Chimel v. California
The constitutional right of privacy, which began to take shape in the mid-1960’s, came to include the freedom of the individual to make fundamental choices involving sex, reproduction, family life, and other intimate personal relationships. It is this aspect of the right of privacy that is the most intensely disputed and hotly contested. Procreation was ruled a basic civil right by the Court in Skinner v. Oklahoma
Griswold held that a Connecticut law forbidding use of contraceptives by married couples intruded on the right of marital privacy implicitly guaranteed in the Constitution. In this case, the Court first formally recognized a constitutional right of privacy. It then remained for the Court to define that right. Justice William O. Douglas
Roe v. Wade, a 7-2 decision, extended the right of privacy to a woman’s decision to terminate her pregnancy. Because that right was fundamental, the Court reasoned, only the most compelling reasons permit government interference with the exercise of that right. The Court also ruled that an unborn fetus is not a person entitled to Fourteenth Amendment guarantees of life and liberty because the word “person” in that amendment is used in the postnatal sense only. For ease of reference, the Court divided pregnancy into “trimesters,” three periods of about three months each. During the first trimester, the woman, in consultation with her physician, can decide whether to terminate her pregnancy, without government interference. During the second, the government can regulate abortion only to preserve and protect the health of the woman. During the third trimester, when the fetus is viable, or capable of meaningful life outside the womb, the government’s interest in protecting fetal life becomes more compelling. Only then can the government ban abortion. The Court found that although the government does have an interest in protecting prenatal life, that interest must be balanced against a woman’s right to privacy, which is broad enough to protect a woman’s exclusive claim to her body.
In the next two decades, the Court reviewed a number of cases in which state and local governments imposed various restrictions on abortion. During the 1970’s most of these restrictions were declared unconstitutional. As the composition of the Court grew more conservative in the 1980’s, however, many restrictions were viewed more favorably. In Webster v. Reproductive Health Services
In Moore v. City of East Cleveland
An ideal starting point for research into this subject is Kevin M. Keenan’s Invasion of Privacy: A Reference Handbook (Santa Barbara, Calif.: ABC-Clio, 2005). Kermit L. Hall’s Conscience, Expression, and Privacy (New York: Garland, 2000) examines how the Supreme Court has treated the concept of the right to privacy. Among other engaging books on the subject are Charles Sykes’s The End of Privacy: The Attack on Personal Rights at Home, at Work, On-Line, and in Court (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1999), Richard A. Glenn’s The Right to Privacy: Rights and Liberties Under the Law (Santa Barbara, Calif.: ABC-Clio, 2003), and Suzanne U. Samuels’s First Among Friends: Interest Groups, the U.S. Supreme Court, and the Right to Privacy (Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 2004). Privacy is extensively treated in constitutional law and civil liberties textbooks. Ellen Alderman and Caroline Kennedy’s The Right to Privacy (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1995) treats privacy in the context of various scenarios and is well written and easy to understand. In The Limits of Privacy (New York: Basic Books, 1999), Amitai Etzioni argues that privacy should not be regarded as an individual right or given a privileged status in formulation of public policy but be viewed as one good among many. This is a well-written book for those interested in political science or public policy. In Privacy in the Information Age (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution, 1997), Fred H. Cate discusses privacy in the United States and compares it with privacy in Europe. The book encompasses the public sector, the private sector, and electronic privacy and contains discussions about notable cases. Priscilla M. Regan’s Legislating Privacy: Technology, Social Values, and Public Policy (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1995) examines public policy in information privacy (computerization), communication privacy (wiretapping), and psychological privacy (polygraphs).
Birth control and contraception
Gay and lesbian rights
Search warrant requirement