Washington Law Review


Ramsey Ramerman


The Fourth Amendment was designed to be a barrier that protects citizens from unreasonable government intrusion and surveillance. However, for the Amendment to grant meaningful protection, the rules that govern the scope of that protection must supply guidance to police and citizens. While the Fourth Amendment unquestionably protects people in their own homes, the scope of the Amendment's protection outside the home is not clear. In Rakas v. Illinois, the U.S. Supreme Court held that courts should define the scope of Fourth Amendment protection by considering sources outside of the Fourth Amendment. While Rakas provides guidance to courts, it does not provide guidance to police and citizens. Minnesota v. Carter exemplifies this problem. In Carter, the Court relied on three of the sources identified in Rakas to develop a test to define the scope of privacy for guests and applied this test to hold that short-term business guests should not expect privacy, no matter what precautions they take to ensure their privacy. Police, however, will find the Court's test impossible to apply in the field, and if they try to apply it, a great risk exists that they will violate citizens' Fourth Amendment rights. This Comment urges the Court to adopt a test that first focuses on the precautions people take to ensure their privacy and then asks whether a reasonable person would find that those precautions should have been adequate to ensure privacy. This test would better protect privacy because it would provide clear guidance to both police and citizens.

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