United States v. White

United States v. White

U.S. Supreme Court

401 U.S. 745 (1971)

ISSUE: Does the 4th Amdt. bar testimony of governmental agents who related certain conversations that occurred between D and an informant, which agents overheard the conversations by monitoring a radio transmitter carried by the informant and concealed on his person?
HOLDING: No.
FACTS:
  • On 4 occasions, conversations occurred between D and the informant in the informant's home and with his consent
  • Each conversation was overheard by an agent hiding in a kitchen closet and by one outside who heard the conversation via radio equipment
PROCEDURAL HISTORY:
  • D found guilty of various illegal transactions in narcotics
  • Ct. App. read Katz to render the agents' testimony inadmissible
    • Recording AND transmitting at the same time renders the evidence inadmissible
RULES:
  • Katz: Physical invasions are no longer the threshold for determining if eavesdropping violates the 4th Amdt.
  • Hoffa: 4th Amdt. provides no protection to a wrongdoer's misplaced belief that a person to whom he voluntarily confides his wrongdoing will not reveal it
  • Lopez: No warrant required when an agent carries electronic equipment to record D's words and the evidence gathered is offered as evidence
REASONING:
  • Recording/transmitting doesn't violate 4th Amdt.: An agent does not violate D's 4th Amdt. rights if, instead of immediately reporting and transcribing his conversations with D, he either (1) simultaneously records them with electronic equipment which he is carrying on his person, or (2) carries radio equipment which simultaneously transmits the conversations either to recording equipment located elsewhere or to other agents monitoring the transmitting frequency
    • Same applies when conversations between D and an informant are recorded or transmitted
  • No protection w/o recording, so no protection w/ recording: No protection is given to D when one of his accomplices reveals conversations to the authorities, so no protection lies when the same conversations with the informant are recorded or transmitted
    • One contemplating illegal activities will probably not alter what he says to a supposed accomplice-turned-informant depending on whether the informant is wired or not
    • No evidence that the 4th Amdt. protects against either situation (wired or unwired)
  • No constitutional right to exclude testimony that is more accurate because it is aided by a recording

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