Louis D. Brandeis: Opinion in Olmstead v. United States

(1928)

In Olmstead v. United States (1928), the U.S. Supreme Court held that the use of evidence obtained by secretly wiretapping telephones without judicial approval does not violate the Fourth and Fifth Amendments to the Constitution. Several petitioners, including Roy Olmstead, had been convicted of conspiracy to violate the Volstead Act, establishing Prohibition in the United States. Olmstead is a case in which the dissents, particularly that of Justice Louis D. Brandeis, were more noteworthy than the majority’s view. In his dissent, Brandeis argued that the protections offered by the Fourth and Fifth Amendments are broad and that wholesale intrusions by the government on the privacy of individuals can be construed as a violation of these protections. In 1934 Congress passed a law outlawing the use of wiretapping, and a series of Supreme Court cases since then have taken the dissenters’ views about a fundamental right to privacy.

 

Image for: Louis D. Brandeis: Opinion in Olmstead v. United States

Louis D. Brandeis (Library of Congress)

View Full Size