Street Law: A Course in Practical Law

Chapter 42: The Right to Privacy

Chapter Overviews

Development of the Right to Privacy  The right to privacy protects citizens from unreasonable government interference. Though a person's right to privacy is not directly mentioned in the Constitution, it is implied by certain constitutional amendments. The government limits a person's privacy when justified by certain government interests. State laws and constitutions, as well as federal statutes and the U.S. Constitution, contain various privacy protections. Some argue that privacy rights are not a part of the Constitution and should not be given constitutional protection.

Privacy in the Home and at School  Many people believe that a person's home deserves special privacy protection. While police need a valid search warrant to search a person's home, searches of students' lockers and desks at public schools are generally allowed by the government.

Information Gathering and Privacy  Individuals have fewer privacy rights regarding their finances. Once notified and approved by the court, federal law allows federal agents to obtain copies of a person's bank or credit card records. At the same time, the government must provide its citizens with access to federal records that are not protected by a privacy law.

Reproductive Rights and Privacy  Laws regarding abortion and reproductive rights have created controversy in the United States for many years. In the landmark case of Roe v. Wade (1973), the U.S. Supreme Court placed limits on the government's ability to regulate abortions. The abortion decision, based on the constitutional right to privacy, continues to be extremely controversial.

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