The Bill of Rights, or the first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution, was designed as a method to protect citizens against the power of the central government. Thus, in order for the Fourth Amendment to apply, we must first have some sort of governmental conduct as opposed to private conduct. The second requirement is that the government conduct in question must be regarded as a search and seizure in order to implicate the Fourth Amendment. Conduct that is regarded as search and seizure is that conduct in which an individual has a reasonable expectation of privacy from intrusion. A reasonable expectation, discussed in the next section, is that which the majority of the Supreme Court says is reasonable.
As early as 1921, in Burdeau v. McDowell, the Court held that private procurement of evidence was not governed by the Fourth Amendment. In Burdeau, the petitioner had been discharged from the company he worked at for misconduct. When representatives of the company and their hired private detectives took possession of the petitioner's office, they removed papers from his desk and office safe. Shortly after discovering the papers, a representative from the company forwarded a letter found in the petitioner's desk to the U.S. Attorney General's office indicating that the company had papers in its possession that might prove useful to the Department of Justice's investigation of petitioner's alleged fraudulent use of the mails. In allowing the government to use the evidence, the Court said, “The Fourth Amendment gives protection against unlawful searches…its protection applies to governmental action. Its origin and history clearly show that it was intended as a restraint upon the activity of the sovereign authority.” The Fourth Amendment, which was part of the so-called Bill of Rights, was designed to protect the individual from the power of the government. Although the property of the