Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Court holds that Jones concurrences do not provide that extended surveillance violates Fourth Amendment

In United States v. Brooks, No. CR 11-2265 (D. Ariz. 2012), the court held that the concurring opinions in the Supreme Court's 2012 Jones decision cannot be read to find that prolonged video surveillance violates the Fourth Amendment.

Law enforcement had placed a camera on a service pole outside the defendant's apartment complex with permission from the property owner. The camera was able to zoom and pan. Using images acquired from the camera, the government was able to build a case against the defendant.

At issue before the court was whether the placement of the camera violated the defendant's Fourth Amendment rights and the evidence should be suppressed. The defendant, relying on concurring opinions by Justices Alito and Sotomayor, argued that under United States v. Jones, "long-term continuous surveillance violate's a person's Fourth Amendment rights."

The court disagreed that the concurring opinions can be read as binding.

While it does appear that in some future case, a five justice "majority" is willing to accept the principle that Government surveillance can implicate an individual's reasonable expectation of privacy over time, Jones does not dictate the result of the case at hand because it merely reaffirms the reasonable expectation of privacy analysis.... Accordingly, the Court must determine whether Defendant's reasonable expectation of privacy required law enforcement to obtain a warrant before conducting pole camera surveillance on the parking lot of a gated apartment complex associated with Defendant from a camera whose installation was permitted.
As such, the motion to suppress was denied.


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