” A federal judge on Monday tossed evidence that was gathered by a webcam—turned on for six weeks—that the authorities nailed to a utility pole 100 yards from a suspected drug dealer’s rural Washington state house.
The Justice Department contended that the webcam, with pan-and-zoom capabilities that were operated from afar, was no different from a police officer’s observation from the public right-of-way.
The government argued (PDF):
The advantage of a police camera to law enforcement is that it saves the time and manpower required to conduct around the clock surveillance. As in this case, law enforcement is authorized to use the pole camera only to record activities that are otherwise open to public view, and not protected by the 4th Amendment.
US District Judge Edward Shea disagreed and ruled (PDF) that a warrant was necessary to spy on Leonel Vargas via a webcam controlled by local police.”
Somehow this little tidbit doesn’t surprise us:
” Strangely, the judge noted, when the authorities raided the house in May 2013, the camera was panned on nearby sagebrush and not the house.”