Justice scalia arguing the opinion of the court

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Justice Scalia, arguing the opinion of the court, presents a highly compelling line of reasoning using prior court decisions to display how the use of thermal imaging technology violates an individual’s expectation of privacy under the Fourth Amendment. He explains that the court has established through Dow Chemical Co. v. United States and Katz v. United States that the Fourth Amendment exists to protect those expectations of privacy “justifiably relied on [and willingly recognized as reasonable by society].” He then presents the idea that the individual has the utmost expectation of privacy in their home and searches of such a constitutionally protected area must be monitored closely to protect individual rights. He admits that anything observed in-
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plain-view or through naked-eye surveillance is a reasonable search under the Fourth Amendment. Following this admission however, he demonstrates that the use of thermal imaging requires the use of advanced technology that “enhances perception” and is not available to the public. He makes it very clear that the intrusion on the individual’s right to privacy is too great when the evidence is obtained by means that could not have been obtained without physical intrusion into the constitutionally protected area. He uses clear, deliberative logic to demonstrate the large degree to which allowing such searches jeopardizes an individual’s privacy and simultaneously shows how the governmental interest is not significant enough to rely on means (for searching an individual’s home) beyond those already permitted by law. Justice Stevens also develops an equally convincing and well-reasoned argument that directly contradicts Justice Scalia’s. Justice Stevens relies on the plain language of the Fourth Amendment, emphasizing the fact that it protects individuals from unwarranted governmental searches inside of their homes. Using Katz (which Justice Scalia also relied on) along with other cases, he explains that information or evidence (such as the heat one emits from their home) is knowingly exposed to the public and therefore, as expressed by precedent, cannot reasonably be expected to be protected. He also attacks and successfully degrades Scalia’s argument, showing its weak reliance on future technological advances and poorly drawn analogies between Mr. Kyllo’s case and the prior Katz case. Prior to reading his opinion, I did not think I could agree with Justice Steven’s argument that the use of such technology qualified as a reasonable search; however, he convincingly demonstrates how the technology is not significantly infringing on individual’s privacy and simultaneously explains that a prohibition of such a constitutional search that might become unconstitutional is not the business of the court.
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Journal #6: Are Laws Requiring Schools and Public Libraries to Filter Internet Access Constitutional?
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  • Fall '11
  • Dupont
  • History, Supreme Court of the United States, First Amendment to the United States Constitution, Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, Justice Rehnquist

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