Constitutional Law and Criminal Procedure—Media Ride-Alongs Into the Home: Can They Survive a Head-On Collision Between First and Fourth Amendment Rights?
Gossett, DeLeith Duke
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Millions of viewers have tuned in nightly over the last decade to experience the new phenomenon called "reality television." From the safe confines of their living room easy chairs, viewers can participate in daring rescue missions or observe actual police arrests on the beat and in the home.' Although popular with viewers, reality television programming raises serious questions about personal privacy rights that stand in the way of the public's right to know. The United States Supreme Court ruled privacy rights may take precedence, holding in Wilson v. Layne that the popular media ride-alongs violate the Fourth Amendment when the media accompanies law enforcement officers into a home. This note examines the Wilson decision and the legal landscape from which it arose. Focusing on the special deference traditionally afforded to the home, the note then discusses Fourth Amendment protections and the English common-law from which the Fourth Amendment developed. It next examines media intrusions into the home through the influx of reality programming and the tension such intrusions raise between personal privacy and the First Amendment guarantee to a free press. The note traces the development of lawsuits, grounded in both tort law and the Fourth Amendment, resulting from media ride-alongs. The note also considers an important affirmative defense available to officers who have unwittingly violated a plaintiff's protected rights, that of qualified immunity. In closing, the impact Wilson will have on the media and reality programming, in particular, is analyzed.