Week 4-Legal Aspects

Part 1. Explain the concept of “reasonable expectation of privacy.”

The reasonable expectation of privacy is a part of privacy laws that help determine in which places and activities an individual has a legal right to privacy. It is sometimes referred to as the “right to be left alone.” A person’s expectation of privacy means anyone who without reason and seriously compromises another individual’s interest in keeping their affairs from being known can be arrested for exposure or intrusion (McArthur, 2001). An expectation of privacy is not absolute. The discovery or disclosure of a private matter must have occurred when the accused was in a situation where the average individual was intruded upon.

The expectation of privacy has a different definition when used in connection with searches by individuals acting on behalf of a city, federal government or state. In such instances, the expectation of privacy refers to where the United States Constitution requires law enforcing organizations to obtain a warrant before searching for evidence of a crime (McArthur, 2001). A perfect example of where the reasonable expectation of privacy should be observed is in the home. One does not have to be a homeowner for the law to protect them. Individuals who live in rentals also have a right to protected privacy. Invasion of privacy does not necessarily mean someone is invading an individual’s home but also someone using electronic equipment to monitor or record what others are doing at their homes.

An individual’s expectation of privacy can get troublesome when they are out of their home. Although a person may not have a right to be secluded in a public area, the law is able to still protect people from being portrayed in a manner that can be considered humiliating or broadcasting their private details (Sableman, 2016). While people involved in accidents cannot sue television or newspaper stations for showing their images as they are newsworthy, they can sue the stations for leaking conversations between them and rescue personnel.

Part 2. The Fourth Amendment

The Fourth Amendment is a law in the constitution of the United States that protects citizens from unreasonable searches and seizes by the government. It does not, however, assure against all searches and seizures but only those that are deemed to be unreasonable under the law. The Fourth Amendment was initially only applied in federal court. The Supreme Court in the case of Wolf against the state of Colorado ruled that the rights provided for in the fourth amendment should apply equally in state courts (Nolo, 2019). This is through the fourteenth amendment which assures every citizen’s right to due processes and protection of the laws. The law does not apply against the government’s action, not until the defendant establishes a reasonable expectation of privacy in the place to be searched or property to be seized.

The Supreme Court explains that what an individual knowingly exposes to the public is not a subject to Fourth Amendment protection but what he or she seeks to remain private may be protected by the Constitution even in areas accessible by the public population. The Supreme Court has ruled that the people generally have a reasonable expectation of privacy in their bodies, personal belongings, and clothing. Searches and seizures without a warrant are unreasonable. Such cases include Payton verse New York, 445.S. 573 (1980) where a search was conducted in the home of the accused without a warrant and New Jersey versus TLO, 469. S 325 (1985) where a student was searched without a warrant (Findlaw, 2019).

Police officers obtain search warrants by convincing neutral magistrates when they have a reason to believe that criminal activity is occurring at the place to be searched or that evidence of a crime committed earlier may be found there. This is usually through affidavits. The Fourth Amendment does not apply for an individual if he or she is considered a risk to national security. A search warrant is also not needed to conduct a search in relation to an arrest.



McArthur, Robert L. Reasonable (2001). Expectation of Privacy. Ethics and Information            Technology; Dordrecht Vol. 3, Iss. 2, (2001): 123.

Sableman, Mark (2016/2017). Social Media Privacy: It’s a Reasonable Expectations Game.    Austin Vol. 20, Iss. 4

Findlaw (2019). What Is the Reasonable Expectation of Privacy? Retrieved from findlaw.com

Nolo (2019). Search warrants: What They Are and When They are Necessary. Retrieved from    nolo.com