Kyllo v. United States, 533 U.S. 27, 5 (2001)

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Cite as: 533 U. S. 27 (2001)

Opinion of the Court

opinion was withdrawn and the panel (after a change in composition) affirmed, 190 F. 3d 1041 (1999), with Judge Noonan dissenting. The court held that petitioner had shown no subjective expectation of privacy because he had made no attempt to conceal the heat escaping from his home, id., at 1046, and even if he had, there was no objectively reasonable expectation of privacy because the imager "did not expose any intimate details of Kyllo's life," only "amorphous 'hot spots' on the roof and exterior wall," id., at 1047. We granted certiorari. 530 U. S. 1305 (2000).


The Fourth Amendment provides that "[t]he right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated." "At the very core" of the Fourth Amendment "stands the right of a man to retreat into his own home and there be free from unreasonable governmental intrusion." Silverman v. United States, 365 U. S. 505, 511 (1961). With few exceptions, the question whether a warrantless search of a home is reasonable and hence constitutional must be answered no. See Illinois v. Rodriguez, 497 U. S. 177, 181 (1990); Payton v. New York, 445 U. S. 573, 586 (1980).

On the other hand, the antecedent question whether or not a Fourth Amendment "search" has occurred is not so simple under our precedent. The permissibility of ordinary visual surveillance of a home used to be clear because, well into the 20th century, our Fourth Amendment jurisprudence was tied to common-law trespass. See, e. g., Goldman v. United States, 316 U. S. 129, 134-136 (1942); Olmstead v. United States, 277 U. S. 438, 464-466 (1928). Cf. Silverman v. United States, supra, at 510-512 (technical trespass not necessary for Fourth Amendment violation; it suffices if there is "actual intrusion into a constitutionally protected area"). Visual surveillance was unquestionably lawful because " 'the


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