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Technology and the Fourth Amendment: A Proposed Formulation for Visual Searches

NCJ Number
Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology Volume: 80 Issue: 1 Dated: (Spring 1989) Pages: 1-113
R C Power
Date Published
113 pages
This article examines search and seizure issues related to visual observations by law enforcement devices such as binoculars or telescopes.
While the Supreme Court has not ruled directly on the use of enhancement devices, lower courts have considered their use, but have produced no consistent results, even though they all claim to be following Katz v. United States. The article analyzes the premises of Katz and the ways courts have applied its teaching to visual surveillance cases, focusing on inconsistent outcomes resulting from judges' varied attitudes about privacy and the meaning of Katz. The article proposes an analytical model for visual searches based on four general norms and argues that adoption of the norms would protect people from many intrusive surveillance practices without depriving the government of the reasonable use of modern technology for law enforcement purposes. 351 footnotes.