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What is the significance of the Supreme Court case United States v. White?

The Supreme Court's decision in United States v.

White overturned the previous precedent set in On Lee v.

United States, where the use of a concealed radio transmitter by an informant was found to violate the Fourth Amendment.

The Court in White concluded that important constitutional developments since On Lee had eroded the doctrinal foundations of that earlier case, necessitating a reassessment.

The key difference between On Lee and White was that in White, the informant was simply a participant in the conversation, while in On Lee, the informant used a concealed radio transmitter to allow law enforcement to overhear the conversation.

The Court in White determined that the use of informants who may reveal the contents of their conversations with an accused does not violate the Fourth Amendment's protection against unreasonable searches and seizures, even when the conversations are secretly recorded without a warrant.

This decision expanded the principle established in Katz v.

United States, which held that the Fourth Amendment protects people's reasonable expectation of privacy, not just physical places.

The Court's reasoning in White was that an individual has no reasonable expectation of privacy in a conversation with a person who may later reveal the contents of that conversation to the authorities.

The White decision was controversial, with two Justices dissenting and arguing that it was a significant erosion of Fourth Amendment protections.

The case had important implications for law enforcement's ability to use informants and undercover agents to gather evidence without having to obtain a warrant.

Critics argued that the White decision undermined the privacy protections established in Katz and opened the door to widespread government surveillance without judicial oversight.

Supporters of the decision argued that it was a necessary tool for law enforcement to effectively investigate criminal activity and that individuals should not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in conversations with informants.

The White decision has been cited in numerous subsequent cases, and its principles have been extended to other forms of electronic surveillance, such as the use of pen registers and trap-and-trace devices.

The case highlighted the ongoing tension between the government's need for effective law enforcement tools and the individual's right to privacy, a tension that continues to be debated in the context of evolving technologies.

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