Minnesota v. Olson, 495 U.S. 91 (1990)

2012-08-05 13:56:17

Minnesota v. Olson addressed an important procedural question in Fourth Amendment litigation: Is the person seeking to challenge the legality of the search or seizure the ‘‘victim’’ of the governmental activity?

A person must have a legally protected interest in the area searched to be able to challenge a governmental search of that area. Olson was an overnight guest in another person’s home when the police entered the house without a warrant and arrested him. That warrantless entry violated the Fourth Amendment. But did Olson have any right to complain because it was not his home? The Supreme Court held that he did, reasoning that his status as an overnight guest created a reasonable expectation of privacy in the home. The Court observed: ‘‘We will all be hosts and we will all be guests many times in our lives.’’ It accordingly believed the long-standing social custom of having such guests was recognized as valuable by society.

Olson gives protection against unreasonable governmental intrusions to individuals when they travel and stay in another’s home. Left unanswered by Olson is whether other social guests have protection. In a subsequent case, Minnesota v. Carter, 119 S. Ct. 469 (1998), the Court was divided on that question. Some justices saw Olson as the absolute limit of protection, while other justices believed that almost all social guests would have an expectation of privacy in another’s home. In Carter, the Court held that a person who was in another’s apartment for a short time to package cocaine did not have a protected interest. Which other visitors have a protected interest in someone else’s home has yet to be answered by the Court.


References and Further Reading

  • Clancy, Thomas K., What Does the Fourth Amendment Protect: Property, Privacy, or Security? Wake Forest Law Review 33 (1998): 307.
  • Weinreb, Lloyd L., Your Place or Mine? Privacy of Presence Under the Fourth Amendment, Supreme Court Review (1999): 253.

Cases and Statutes Cited

  • Jones v. United States, 362 U.S. 257 (1960)
  • Minnesota v. Carter, 119 S. Ct. 469 (1998)
  • Minnesota v. Olson, 495 U.S. 91 (1990)

See also Exclusionary Rule; Search (General Definition)