Criminal Procedure, Pages 49–55

Oliver v. United States

Supreme Court of the United States, 1984


Defendant was growing a field of marijuana, and Kentucky State Police went to investigate. Although they did not have a warrant, the officers entered the farm, walked around a gate with a "No Trespassing" sign, and eventually found defendant's marijuana field.

Procedural History:

  • District court suppressed evidence of the discovery of the field, finding that he had a reasonable expectation of privacy because it was secluded, had "No Trespassing" signs, and a locked gate.

  • Court of appeals revered, concluding that Katz did not impair the open field doctrine.


Does the open field doctrine still apply under Katz?


The open field doctrine is consistent with the language of the Fourth Amendment. Even under the Katz test, one may not legitimately demand privacy outdoors except immediately surrounding his home. Societal interests do not protect activities in these areas, and they are usually visible by the public, even with "No Trespassing" signs up. In addition, fields could be surveyed from the air without constituting a search.


Factors the court looked at were:

  1. Framer's intent
  2. Use of the land
  3. Societal understanding


Dissenting Opinion:

Marshall: Society is prepared to recognize an expectation of privacy on open, private fields. There are many activities people do on open, private land where they expect privacy and society understands this.