A Federal judge has ruled that it is not a violation of the 4th Amendment for police to install surveillance cameras on a person’s private property if they expect a crime is being committed.
Officers in Wisconsin charged Manuel Mendoza and Marco Magana of Green Bay with Federal drug charges after discovering an alleged 1,000 marijuana plants growing on a heavily wooded, 22-acre property. Agents with the Drug Enforcement Agency gathered video evidence on the gated, posted property without a warrant. Magana and Mendoza, facing life imprisonment and $10 million in fines, asked U.S. Magistrate Judge William Callahan to throw out the video evidence on 4th Amendment grounds.
On Oct. 8, however, Callahan agreed with a 1984 Supreme Court case ruling in Oliver v. United States allowing for the warrantless search of open fields on private property by the government and extended the ruling to video surveillance.
“That one’s actions could be recorded on their own property, even if the property is not within the curtilage, is contrary to society’s concept of privacy,” wrote Brett Reetz, Magana’s attorney, in a legal filing last month. “The owner and his guest… had reason to believe that their activities on the property were not subject to video surveillance as it would constitute a violation of privacy.”
“Curtilage” is a legal term for property closer to a residence which traditionally is more protected by privacy rights.
Federal Judge William Griesbach rejected a request for repeal in the case. It has also been noted that it is unclear Magana had complete ownership of the property or was leasing the land, according to reports. A jury trial has been scheduled to begin Jan. 22.