Privacy of one’s home and person are among the ideas held as high value under the Fourth Amendment, in dealing with Constitutional protections of citizens from government.
Early court decisions limited the amendment’s scope to a law enforcement officer’s physical intrusion onto private property, but with Katz v. United States (1967), the Supreme Court held that its protections, such as the warrant requirement, extend to the privacy of individuals as well as physical locations.
Before that, in related but distinct from protections against governmental intrusion: protections of people from other people carry over ideas from 1628 English common law, which had already formalized the idea of the “Castle doctrine”:
For a man’s house is his castle, et domus sua cuique est tutissimum refugium [and each man’s home is his safest refuge].
Even earlier, Exodus 22, verse 1 made it clear that a homeowner could kill an intruder or thief without penalty – it is a solid exclusion of the prohibition of murder:
1 If a thief be found breaking in, and be smitten so that he dieth, there shall be no bloodguiltiness for him.
Which leads us to a news story I heard recently, with a reference to Oklahoma’s “Make My Day” law. While the principle might be similar, the attitude of a Clint Eastwood movie character seems not quite right as an ethically supportable reason to take another human life. Intruder or not. Before you go overboard “taking the law into your own hands”, homeowners are not protected against liability for damages caused by lethal booby traps and “spring guns” . And check with your lawyer about local statutes. This is not a legal advice blog.
The term “make my day law” came to be used in the United States in about 1985 when Colorado passed a law that shielded people from any criminal or civil liability for using force against a home invader, including deadly force. (The law’s nickname is a reference to the line “Go ahead, make my day” uttered by actor Clint Eastwood‘s character “Dirty Harry” Callahan in the 1983 police film Sudden Impact.)
So let me ask you, with such long standing (from the time of Exodus?), clearly lawful protections for the privacy of your home, why is there so little protection for the privacy of our personal information? Could we just do a “Dirty Harry” on the mega-companies that abuse or misuse our personal information and profit from selling it, without our knowledge or permission? It can only happen when individuals begin to realize we might actually have rights and take steps to reclaim the privacy of our personal information, and tell our lawmakers to step up and serve their constituents.
Go ahead, Make My Day!