DENVER — The Colorado Supreme Court ruled Monday that police officers violated a man’s constitutional rights when they installed a video camera on a utility pole near his home and spied on him for months without getting a search warrant.
The justices said the 24-hour-a-day, 3-month-long surveillance of the Colorado Springs man’s front yard, house, driveway and part of his backyard violated his Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches and seizures, The Denver Post reported. His conviction and 15-year-prison sentence for drug trafficking were overturned.
The unanimous decision differentiates between police officers personally watching suspects and officers using technology to record a person’s every move for extended periods of time.
The man had a reasonable expectation of privacy in his yard, even though parts of the area were visible to the public, the court found. And the Colorado Springs Police Department should have received a search warrant before setting up the camera, which could pan and zoom to see over the man’s 6-foot-tall (1.8-meter-tall) fence.
The justices also rejected the state’s argument that the surveillance wasn’t as intrusive as GPS tracking or the use of cellphone data, noting that constant surveillance “shares many of the troubling attributes of GPS tracking.”