The United States Supreme Court in 2012 in United States v. Jones changed the legal test for what constitutes a police search under the Fourth Amendment. After Jones, a search occurs when: (1) an individual’s privacy rights are violated (“Katz” test); and/or (2) an individual’s property is trespassed upon (“Jones” test). From 1967 until Jones, only the Katz test was used. In light of this significant change, this study explores two questions using a content analysis approach: (1) the choice of legal test used by federal appellate courts to decide the “search” question (i.e., the Jones test, Katz test, or both tests), and (2) these courts’ holding regarding whether a “search” occurred. Most of these courts are relying upon Jones in some fashion; however, Jones has not prevented these courts from frequently applying Katz. Though reliance on Jones alone has led to uniform determinations by courts of a “search” and hence enhanced Fourth Amendment protections, overall post-Jones there are nearly an equal number of courts finding a “search” and “no search.” When courts apply Katz alone to evaluate a search, they have held no search occurred. In sum, Jones’ impact on Fourth Amendment search law has been incremental and gradual.
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