For your reference, a list of definitions and acronyms is provided in Appendix A at the end of this subcourse.
Fourth Amendment to the Constitution
The Constitution of the United States is the basis for many of the laws of the land. The Fourth Amendment to the
Constitution specifically applies to searches and seizures:
"The right of the people to be secure on their persons, houses, papers and effects, against unreasonable search and
seizure, shall not be violated, and no warrant shall be issued, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or
affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched and the persons or things to be seized."
The Supreme Court has ruled that this amendment protects a person's privacy. This means that the government
cannot unreasonably intrude upon or invade a person's privacy. The protection offered by the Fourth Amendment
is applied to military search and seizures as well as civilian search and seizures.
Private Party Searches
The Fourth Amendment does not apply to searches conducted by private individuals. The individual conducting a
private search must act in a purely private capacity. This case was tested in Burdeau v. McDowell, 256 U.S. 456
Modern technology had an interesting effect on the outcome of a recent Army case. In U.S. v. Sullivan, 38 M.J.
746 (A.C.M.R. 1993), a neighbor's monitoring of accused's cordless telephone conversation was a private search
to which the fourth amendment did not apply. Tape recordings of the conversation were properly admitted.
Law enforcement officials, however, must be aware of the provisions of 18 U.S.C. sections 2510 and 2511 if they
wish to intercept cordless telephone conversations as part of their investigatory activity. The most recent revision
of 18 U.S.C. section 2510 in 1994 deleted the exclusion of cordless telephone communication from the term "wire
communication." Law enforcement officials will now be required to observe all the provisions of 18 U.S.C.
section 2511 regarding interception and disclosure of wire, oral, or electronic communication concerning cordless
Consider the following examples:
PVT Arhaid enters his room one day after work. He wants to listen to his new cassette tape player but it is gone.
PVT Arhaid's roommate tells him that SPC Dumkauf took his new cassette tape player. PVT Arhaid goes into