Warrantless surveillance of private property deemed lawful in the US
2012-12-05 0:00

By Nina Hanbury | PrivacyInternational.org

Last month, US District Judge William Griesbach ruled that police can lawfully install covert digital surveillance cameras on private property without a warrant. Officers of the Drug Enforcement Agency had entered a property belonging to Marco Magana, which was littered with ‘no trespassing’ signs and behind a locked gate, and installed hidden cameras without the consent or knowledge of either the occupant or a court of law. In what has been described by Salon as “yet another blow to US citizens’ dwindling expectation of privacy from government surveillance”, the Judge ruled that this did not constitute a breach of the Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution. Given the central role of the Fourth Amendment in upholding due process, this case sets a dangerous precedent for the protection of privacy and the use of electronic surveillance.

The Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution defends “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures”, adding that “no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized”. In defending the decision that this particular use of warrantless electronic surveillance did not constitute a breach, Judge Griesbach alluded primarily to the ‘open fields’ principle. This principle asserts that open fields are exempt from Fourth Amendment protection as they “do not provide the setting for those intimate activities that the Amendment is intended to shelter from government interference or surveillance”. As a result, open fields are not deemed to possess a reasonable expectation of privacy.

Lawyers for the two defendants in the case - Magana and Manuel Mendoza, who are both charged with running a large-scale marijuana farm - argued that the property in question constituted curtilage, the land immediately surrounding a dwelling, which does possess the expectation of privacy. The court rejected this argument, though their basis for doing so remains elusive, particularly in light of subsequent police conduct. While the initial installation of covert surveillance by police may have been justified by the assumption that they were operating on open fields, this does not appear to be the case given that four days later, a warrant was sought and granted. In this light, the scenario is indeed reminiscent of the kind of unreasonable searches (motivated by vague suspicions and unsupported by probable cause) that the Fourth Amendment is intended to protect US citizens against.

[...]


Read the full article at: privacyinternational.org




Related Articles


Latest News from our Front Page

Facebook completes first drone flight above UK, Mark Zuckerberg confirms
2015-03-28 3:15
Solar powered drones which provide internet access to rural and remote areas have been trialled in UK for first time by Facebook. They “have a wingspan greater than a Boeing 737 but will weigh less than a car”, according to the social network's chief Mark Zuckerberg. The drones, developed by Somerset-based company Ascenta which Facebook bought last March, will beam down laser-guided ...
300 Young English Girls (and a few Boys) Groomed and Assaulted by Oxfordshire "Gangs," Report Finds
2015-03-28 2:04
Editor's note: This story is a few days old now but the echoes of Rotherham just keeps coming. A few weeks ago there was Halifax, now Britain proudly can add Oxfordshire to their line up of diversity success stories. Below is the story from the telegraph: Serious case review finds failings by police and social services as it identifies hundreds of victims A ...
British POW describes the horror of the bombing of Dresden
2015-03-28 0:33
Partial Transcript of Interview with Victor Gregg, WW2 British solder and POW: Interviewer: "Tell us how it was that you were in Dresden at that time." Victor Gregg: "It was evil....thousands of firebombs dropping all over the place, heat, fire, people screaming, people burning, people alight. After about half an hour it started developing into something that was really bad....It was ...
Rape of 285,000 German Women at the End of WWII Trigger Damage Control by Mainstream Media
2015-03-27 20:25
Is Exposing Allied War Crimes an honorable act? No, it’s slandering heroes according to Daily Mail A recent article from the Daily Mail that pretends to look at the post WWII crimes and rapes of the Allies against the German people is actually damage control. It’s really an attempt to divert away from the true horrors that was visited upon Germany ...
Minister of Migration attacked by asylum seeker with fire extinguisher
2015-03-27 2:12
Sweden’s Minister of Justice & Migration also known as Morgan “only 1%” Johansson, has been attacked with a fire extinguisher when he visited an asylum home for future Swedes. Regional newspaper, Kristiandstadsbladet reported that a man who had been living at the home for a couple of weeks grabbed a fire extinguisher and sprayed foam all over the minister who didn’t ...
More News »