Monday, January 12, 2009

No Fourth Amendment Protection from Video Surveillance in Open Fields

US v. Vankesteren: Fourth Amendment cases come with the oddest sets of facts. Vankesteren was charged and convicted of taking or possessing a migratory bird without a permit. Part of the evidence against him came from surveillance cameras set up to record action on Vankesteren's land where a trap was set. Vankesteren sought to have that evidence suppressed, arguing that it violated his expectation of privacy in his property. The district court disagreed and Vankesteren was sentenced to a fine of $500.

On appeal, the Fourth Circuit affirmed the conviction and the district court's decision not to suppress the video evidence. The court concluded that the trap at issue was located in an "open field," as it was outside the curtilage of Vankesteren's home, although it was on Vankesteren's property. Thus, Vankesteren lacked a reasonable expectation of privacy and could not invoke the protections of the Fourth Amendment. The court also rejected Vankesteren's argument that a higher standard of scrutiny should apply in cases where hidden video surveillance is used.

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