Setting up hidden cameras, even on private property, is now allowed by police without court approval. US District Judge William Griesbach ruled against a motion filed on behalf of two suspected marijuana growers caught on film on their own property.
According to DEA agents in Wisconsin, Manuel Mendoza and Marco Magana of Green Bay, are accused of growing more then one thousand (1,000) marijuana plants on their property over the summer. DEA agents took it upon themselves to set up several cameras around the area of their wooded Wisconsin home on July 12, 2012, without getting court approval for more than three days. It was only after the suspects were filmed harvesting marijuana that they asked for a warrant.
According to RT, the defense for the two alleged growers stated in the motion The situation at present clearly does not meet the criteria of an emergency that would allow surveillance to take place prior to the authorization of a warrant. There was no indication that national security was threatened, that there was immediate danger of death or serious injury to any person, or characteristics of organized crime.”
The defense wanted to suppress the video evidence in the case, stating it violated the Fourth Amendment, which states "the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures,” The ruling stressed that while your immediate land surrounding your home is off limits, your remaining property is not.
Judge Griesbach said there is nothing wrong with police setting up unauthorized cameras to catch suspected criminals. He based his decision on a recommendation by US Magistrate Judge William Callahan, who used an old ruling to come to his decision.CNet reports Callahan based his reasoning on a 1984 Supreme Court case called Oliver v. United States, in which a majority of the justices said that "open fields" could be searched without warrants because they're not covered by the Fourth Amendment. What lawyers call "curtilage," on the other hand, meaning the land immediately surrounding a residence, still has greater privacy protections.
The twenty-two(22) acre property had many visible no trespassing signs as well as a locked gate to gain access to the property. Magana's attorney, Bradley Reetz, said "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. 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."
The two suspects face Federal drug charges with possible sentences of ten years to life and millions in fines if found guilty. Their trial by jury has been set for January 22.