Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Troubling Fourth Amendment Ruling in Wisconsin

A federal judge in Wisconsin has ruled that the police did not violate the Fourth Amendment when they secretly placed cameras on private property without a warrant.  The police suspected that the defendants were growing marijuana in an open field in Wisconsin. They placed cameras on the field and recorded incriminating images and discussions by the defendants. They eventually obtained a warrant but want to use the images recorded by the cameras before the warrant was obtained.  The defendants were seeking to suppress the images obtained before the warrant was issued.  The federal judge presiding over the case denied the Motion to Suppress by ruling that the Fourth Amendment only protects private residences and not open fields far from any residence.  The property in question was heavily wooded and clearly marked by "no trespassing" signs.  In spite of this the judge did not find that this established a "reasonable expectation of privacy" requiring the application of the Fourth Amendment.  The judge reasoned that if the police could conduct surveillance in person they could use electronic means to conduct the same surveillance.  But aside from the fact that the property was clearly marked with signs indicating that the public was not invited, the fact that the court allows such surveillance is a dramatic increase in the power of government to infringe on the public's right to privacy.  Its much easier for the police to install electronic surveillance devices in more places than they could use officers to conduct that surveillance. That dramatically increases the power of government to conduct surveillance. The Courts should be looking at this type of surveillance in a much more strict manner than this case suggests.

For more information about the Chicago criminal defense attorneys at Legal Defenders, P.C., visit us at www.legaldefenderspc.com or call us anytime at 1-800-228-7295.

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