Cell Phone Surveillance

Lesson Duration

Author:  Office of the U.S. Courts – Educational Resources

Legal landmarks have a lot to teach about contemporary issues. Katz v. United States is a Supreme Court decision made in 1967 that can stimulate discussion today about domestic surveillance, and even the use of cell phones in public places. Katz deals with wiretapping as it is used to provide evidence of a crime. The Supreme Court, for the most part, has not addressed the issue of whether or not the Katz standard is applicable to wiretaps undertaken for national security purposes, as opposed to criminal prosecution. Starting with the materials here, students can discuss how they would argue Katz if a wiretapped call were made from a cell phone, instead of a phone booth.


  • Students will learn about the case of Katz v. United States.
  • Students will learn about the Fourth Amendment and search and seizure.
  • Students will apply issues raised in Katz v. United States to current events.




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