Kyllo v. United States, Continued
This case will have a much greater impact than merely the admitting or suppressing of evidence in Danny Lee Kyllo’s criminal case. It deals with the conflict between personal autonomy and privacy, and governmental desires to obtain information. Here the Supreme Court can explain, in at least one context and perhaps more broadly, the current relationship between changing technologies and the Fourth Amendment’s protection from unreasonable searches and seizures.
The Constitution and its Fourth Amendment were written long before a thermal imaging device could even be contemplated. Justice Black used to remind us that the term "eavesdropping" had a particular, historic meaning. To gather information, someone would stand on the "eavesdrop"-- by the side of a building and under its eave--and listen. Perhaps the eavesdropper could hear a private conversation through an open window that way. It may not have been technologically advanced, but it could be quite effective.
As we enter a new century, most of us are impressed not only by new technology, but also by its increasing rate of development. Technology permeates our lives, offering us great advances in medicine or transportation or nutrition. Some of it has a military or a law enforcement application. And much of it is felt to be a threat to our individual privacy.
Can the Fourth Amendment be a constant, consistent protector of our privacy, at least in the limited context of freedom from unreasonable arrest or search and seizure by the government? Or will our personal privacy inexorably shrink as the technology of information-gathering improves relentlessly? Kyllo v. United States gives the Court an opportunity to clarify the relationship between the Fourth Amendment and modern technology. When, if at all, will governmental use of new technologies be constrained by the Fourth Amendment?
Attorneys for the Parties
For Danny Lee Kyllo
(Kenneth Lerner (503) 223-0422)
For the United States
(Seth P. Waxman, Solicitor General, U.S. Department of Justice (202) 514-2217)
In Support of Danny Lee Kyllo
The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and The American Civil Liberties Union (James J. Tomkovicz (319) 335-9100)
The Liberty Project (Julie M. Carpenter (202) 639-6000)