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Federal Court Allows DEA and Police to Install Concealed Video Surveillance Cameras on Rural Property Without a Warrant

Published by Ellen on October 31, 2012 9:29 AM

Groundbreaking news as U.S. District Judge William Griesbach decreed that the nation’s Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) can now deploy warrantless spy surveillance cameras (also referred to also as covert or hidden cameras) on plots of rural property without permission from the land owner(s). The verdict played a critical role in placing hidden video surveillance cameras in strategic spots throughout a plant farm to bust marijuana growers. The aim of installing these incredibly obscure security cameras was for recording detailed video evidence to prove that at least 30 to 40 marijuana plants were being grown on 22-acres of land. What’s so unique about this case is that this is the first time the Supreme Court has ruled in favor of warrantless surveillance.

U.S. Judge William Callahan influenced Judge Griesbach’s court ruling for the DEA to install hidden surveillance cameras because it did not violate the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits unreasonable searches and requires the use of warrants. Since many of these marijuana farms are isolated, and in desolate areas outside of towns and cities, Judge Callahan declared that searching and monitoring open fields did not violate the amendment.

Justice Department prosecutors James Santelle and William Lipscomb made their position clear to Callahan, “"Placing a video camera in a location that allows law enforcement to record activities outside of a home and beyond protected curtilage does not violate the Fourth Amendment.” The legal term curtilage refers to enclosed areas such as yards or private grounds that are attached to a home or residential building. Owing to the visual evidence recorded by the video surveillance cameras, two defendants have been charged with drug crimes. These individuals could face life imprisonment or up to a $10 million fine.

Now the U.S. Justice Department is arguing to permit all police departments around the nation to set up concealed surveillance cameras on private property adjacent to homes without the oversight of the court. A decision to put up cameras would be subject to a department’s budget and the political discourse surrounding the case or need for hidden security cameras.

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