A Selection of Supreme Court Cases involving the
Fourth Amendment & the Body
· Terry v. Ohio (Stop-and-Frisk) (1968)
The U.S. Supreme Court held that the Fourth Amendment prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures is not violated when a police officer stops a suspect on the street and frisks him or her without probable cause to arrest, if the police officer has a reasonable suspicion that the person has committed, is committing, or is about to commit a crime and has a reasonable belief that the person "may be armed and presently dangerous.”
· United States v. Robinson (Search incident to arrest) (1973)
The U.S. Supreme Court held that "in the case of a lawful custodial arrest a full search of the person is not only an exception to the warrant requirement of the Fourth Amendment, but is also a reasonable search under that Amendment."
· United States v. Dionisio (Voice samples) (1973)
In a 6-3 decision, the Court ruled that the compelled production of the voice exemplars would not violate the Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches or seizures. Justice Stewart explained, “the Fourth Amendment provides no protection for what a person knowingly exposes to the public, even in his own home or office. The physical characteristics of a person's voice, its tone and manner, as opposed to the content of a specific conversation, are constantly exposed to the public. Like a man's facial characteristics, or handwriting, his voice is repeatedly produced for others to hear. No person can have a reasonable expectation that others will not know the sound of his voice, any more than he can reasonably expect that his face will be a mystery to the world.”
· United States v. Mara (Handwriting analysis) (1973)
Also a 6-3 decision, and issued the same day as Dionisio, the Court ruled that the compelled production of handwriting exemplars would not be unreasonable searches or seizures under the Fourth Amendment. “Handwriting, like speech, is repeatedly shown to the public, and there is no more expectation of privacy in the physical characteristics of a person's script than there is in the tone of his voice.”
· Cupp v. Murphy (Scraping under an arrestee’s fingernails) (1973)
Upon receiving word of his ex-wife's murder, Daniel Murphy promptly telephoned the Portland police and voluntarily came into the police station for questioning. Shortly after arrival at the station house where he was represented by counsel, the investigating police noticed a dark spot on the respondent's finger. Suspecting that the spot might be dried blood and knowing that evidence of strangulation is often found under the assailant's fingernails, the police asked Murphy if they could take a sample of scrapings from his fingernails. He refused. Under protest and without a warrant, the police proceeded to take the samples, which turned out to contain traces of skin and blood cells, and fabric from the victim's nightgown. This incriminating evidence was admitted at the trial....