Late last week, the Supreme Court issued an opinion in Torres v. Madrid. This case considered whether a Fourth Amendment seizure occurs when a police officer shoots someone, even if that person “temporarily eludes capture” after being shot. Citing common-law history and its own precedents, the Court answered that a Fourth Amendment seizure does, in fact, occur.
This case is an important win for all Americans. The Fourth Amendment’s text promises the “right of the people to be secure in their persons.” In resolving the question before it, the Court took the opportunity to highlight how the “essence” of the Fourth Amendment’s promise is the “privacy and security of individuals.” The Fourth Amendment, it reasoned, protects against “arbitrary invasion by government officials” by securing the same “degree of privacy against government that existed” at the Founding. In so doing, the Fourth Amendment “preserves personal security with respect to methods of apprehension old and new.”
As PPSA argued in briefs we filed earlier this year in Lange v. California and in Caniglia v. Strom, we agree with the Court about how the Fourth Amendment secures individual privacy. Both Lange and Caniglia are still pending before the Court, and both cases ask important questions about when the government can enter a person’s home. We expect opinions in those cases in June, and we will report back once we have them. For now, we can optimistically look to the Court’s invocation of privacy’s importance in Torres as a sign of how it will resolve Lange and Caniglia.