Richard Re

The Positive Law Floor

PUBLISHER
Harvard Law Review Forum
DATE
2016
 

Abstract

The positive law model of the Fourth Amendment maintains that a search or seizure occurs if, but only if, a private party could not lawfully perform the conduct that the government actually engaged in. The positive law model thus treats laws applicable to private parties as a ceiling on Fourth Amendment protections. But government action is fundamentally different — and often more deserving of regulation — than similar conduct by private parties. Due to its distinctive capabilities, incentives, and social role, the government often threatens the people’s security in ways that private parties simply do not. Still, we can learn from analogies to private parties without being limited by them. The way to do that, I briefly suggest, is to view privacy-related measures applicable to private parties as presumptively triggering the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition on unreasonable searches. I call this alternative approach the “positive law floor.”

Citation

Richard M. Re, The Positive Law Floor, 129 Harvard Law Review Forum 313-337 (2016).
 

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