Constitutional rights

            The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, 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 constitutional right of a person against unreasonable searches and seizures is enshrined in the 4th Amendment of the United States Constitution.  It basically states that a person is protected from searches and seizures conducted on himself and his house without the issuance of a valid arrest warrant.  Recent Supreme Court decisions have expanded the ambit of this provision to cover cases of employees in their places of work and to cover corporations as well (Katz vs United States).

            In situations involving employees and companies, this provision affects the relative privacy expectation that an employee may have with his company.  The judicially recognized rule is that this Constitutional Right against unreasonable searches and seizures is primarily a restriction on the right of the government to intrude into the privacy of people (Katz vs United States).  As such, it does not restrict the right of a company to search the person and effects of an employee under certain circumstances such as when it will promote the safety of the employer, the employee and the general public.

            Another facet of this provision in the context of employees and corporations, especially in the trucking business, is that it allows the company to search the contents of whatever package is being shipped if there is a suspicion that illegal items may be shipped.  This intrusion into the effects of third parties does not violate this constitutional provision.

            Since this provision is almost absolutely applied only against police enforcement officials and government agencies, the impact is that it creates a relative privacy expectation on the rights of employees and corporations.  An interesting scenario is the storage of personal information by an employee on computers provided by the company.  The application of the 4th amendment to this case means that there is only a reasonable expectation of privacy in this case.  As held in the case of US v. Ziegler, 456 F.3d 1138 (9th Cir. 2006), evidence obtained through these means is admissible against the employee in court.


Kilman, Johnny and George Costello (Eds). (2000). The Constitution of the United States of America: Analyis and Interpretation

Thomas Y. Davies, Recovering the Original Fourth Amendment, 98 Mich. L. Rev. 547, 555 (1999)

Cases Cited:

US v. Ziegler, 456 F.3d 1138 (9th Cir. 2006)

Katz v. United States, 389 U.S. 347; 88 S. Ct. 507; 19 L. Ed. 2d 576 (1967)