Date of Award
Bachelor of Arts
Public Policy and Law
Professor Adrienne Fulco
Professor Glenn Falk
The language of the Fourth Amendment protects citizens from warrantless searches of their tangible places and things. For centuries strict interpretation of this Amendment sufficed to protect against invasions of privacy, but developments in modern technology have rendered the Amendment’s initial scope inadequate. Our private information has moved from desks to remote servers, and police surveillance has become both ubiquitous and infallible. In response to these developments, the Supreme Court has expanded the scope of the Fourth Amendment. This thesis explores this doctrinal evolution. Through an analysis of some of the Court’s most consequential Fourth Amendment rulings, this thesis finds support for Orin Kerr’s theory of Equilibrium Adjustment. This theory explains that as new technologies upset the balance between privacy rights and police power, the Supreme Court will adjust the scope of the Fourth Amendment’s protections to restore a proper equilibrium. This thesis then examines the jurisprudential shift that is the result of the Court’s decision in Carpenter v. United States, in which it held that a collection of long-term cell-site location information constitutes a Fourth Amendment search. First, this thesis discusses two interpretations of Carpenter, by Fourth Amendment scholars Orin Kerr and Paul Ohm, and then it explores the actual impact of Carpenter on the evolution of Fourth Amendment law. Matthew Tokson’s empirical study of Carpenter in lower court rulings finds that these courts have largely complied with the Carpenter shift and have begun to flesh out a new Fourth Amendment multi-factor test. This thesis also analyzes the mosaic theory in Fourth Amendment law, which emphasizes that a collection of information implicates privacy concerns to a far greater degree than does a single piece of information, and urges the courts to adopt this approach to the Fourth Amendment in the digital age.
Mattson, Lindsey R., "The Carpenter Shift: The Evolution of Fourth Amendment Jurisprudence in the Digital Age". Senior Theses, Trinity College, Hartford, CT 2022.
Trinity College Digital Repository, https://digitalrepository.trincoll.edu/theses/978