United States v. Dionisio Case Brief

Why is the case important?

A number of people asked to provide voice exemplars in connection with a grand jury investigation moved to quash the subpoenas on the grounds that it would violate their Fourth and Fifth Amendment constitutional rights.

Facts of the case


Whether a voice exemplar violates a person’s Fourth Amendment constitutional right against unreasonable search and seizure?


A subpoena to produce a voice exemplar is not an illegal search and seizure pursuant to the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution?


“The United States Supreme Court reversed and remanding, holding that Dionisio’s compulsory appearance before the grand jury was not an unreasonable seizure. Moreover, the grand jury’s directive to make a voice recording did not infringe his rights under U.S. Const. amend. IV . The Court stated that the obtaining of physical evidence from a person involved a potential violation of U.S. Const. amend. IV at two different levels: first, the seizure of the person necessary to bring him into contact with government agents

  • second, the subsequent search for and seizure of the evidence. The Court found no constitutional violation with respect to the seizure of Dionisio, and distinguished the use of a grand jury subpoena from the unconstitutional dragnet methods of seizing suspects. Nor did the Court find any constitutional violation in taking a voice exemplar. The disclosure of a voice was immeasurably further removed from the Fourth Amendment protection than were other permissible bodily intrusions, such as the extraction of blood and fingerprints.”
    • Case Brief: 1973
    • Petitioner: United States
    • Respondent: Dionisio
    • Decided by: Burger Court

    Citation: 410 US 1 (1973)
    Argued: Nov 6, 1972
    Decided: Jan 22, 1973