Hudson and Samson: the Roberts Court Confronts Privacy, Dignity, and the Fourth Amendment

54 Pages Posted: 2 Jan 2007 Last revised: 1 Sep 2011

See all articles by John D. Castiglione

John D. Castiglione

Office of the New York State Attorney General


This article analyzes Samson v. California and Hudson v. Michigan, the Roberts Court's first major Fourth Amendment decisions. In Samson, the Court upheld a California law allowing government officials to search parolees without any suspicion of wrongdoing. In Hudson, the Court held that knock-and-announce violations do not carry a remedy of exclusion. Hudson not only rejected what every state and every federal court, save one, believed to be the proper remedy for knock-and-announce violations, but called into question the Supreme Court's continued support of a general Fourth Amendment exclusionary principle.

Part One examines the Court's decision in Samson, tying it to a long line of cases dating back to the Burger Court that have segregated entire classes of individuals (and individuals in particular physical locations) from meaningful Fourth Amendment protection. Samson is notable for being the Roberts Court's first major rights-limiting decision under the Fourth Amendment. However, the majority's reasoning is unconvincing, depending on a misconceived notion of criminal propensity that skews the Court's "reasonableness" analysis. The Court's abandonment of special needs doctrine suggests that the majority recognized the tenuous relationship between suspicion-less searches and the penological and rehabilitative goals of parole.

Part Two examines the Court's salvo against the exclusionary rule in Hudson. I critique Justice Scalia's endorsement of alternative remedies to knock-and-announce violations (specifically his reliance on 42 U.S.C. 1983), arguing that these remedies are inadequate to deter official misconduct and make whole the victims of the illegal behavior.

In Part Three, I argue that these decisions betray a clear preference for the government's prerogative, to the detriment of legitimate expectations of privacy, dignity, and autonomy. Both Samson and Hudson offer tantalizing clues as to the new Roberts Court's general theory of the balance of power between the state and the individual in the Fourth Amendment context, a perspective which may well carry over into the next generation of Fourth Amendment cases.

Keywords: Hudson, Samson, Roberts Court, dignity, privacy, autonomy, Fourth Amendment, Scalia, Roberts, Alito, Kennedy, parole, probation, knock and announce, exclusion, exclusionary rule, Bill of Rights, police, search, seizure, Supreme Court, crime, criminology, penological, rehabilitation, warrant

JEL Classification: K00, K14, K19, K30, K40, K42

Suggested Citation

Castiglione, John D., Hudson and Samson: the Roberts Court Confronts Privacy, Dignity, and the Fourth Amendment. Louisiana Law Review, 2007. Available at SSRN:

John D. Castiglione (Contact Author)

Office of the New York State Attorney General ( email )

New York, NY
United States
212.416.8513 (Phone)

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