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The Court has developed a relatively straightforward test for determining what expectations of privacy are protected by the Fourth Amendment with respect to the possession of personal property. If personal property is in the plain view of the public, the possession of the property is in no sense 'private,' and hence is unprotected: 'What a person knowingly exposes to the public, even in his own home or office, is not a subject of Fourth Amendment protection.' 389 U. S. 351 (1967). See Smith v. Maryland, 442 U. S. 735, 442 U. S. 744-746 (1979); United States v. Miller, 425 U. S. 435, 425 U. S. 442 (1976); United States v. Dionisio, 410 U. S. 1, 410 U. S. 14 (1973). When a person's property is concealed from public view, however, then the fact of his possession is private, and the subject of Fourth Amendment protection.


'One point on which the Court was in virtually unanimous agreement in Robbins v. California, 453 U. S. 420 (1981) was that a constitutional distinction between 'worthy' and 'unworthy' containers would be improper. . . . [T]he central purpose of the Fourth Amendment forecloses such a distinction. For just as the ...

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