Mar 032013
 March 3, 2013  Posted by  Court, Surveillance

Nice opinion in Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Gerald M. Dunnavant, a case that involved suppression of evidence obtained from a confidential informant wearing a silent video device in a suspect’s home when no warrant has been obtained:

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (“the Commonwealth”) appeals from the order entered on June 8, 2012 granting the suppression motion filed by Gerald M. Dunnavant (“the defendant”). On appeal, the Commonwealth argues that the suppression court erred by prohibiting for use at trial evidence obtained from a silent video camera worn by a confidential informant inside the defendant’s residence. After careful review of this issue of first impression, we affirm.


The video recording at issue was government behavior and, through the lens of a hidden, digital video camera, a warrantless search of the defendant’s residence. Thus, it is per se unreasonable. Blair, 575 A.2d at 596-597. The Commonwealth does not – and cannot – defend the video recording at issue with any of the specifically established and well-delineated exceptions to the warrant requirement. Even if the Commonwealth’s video recording inside the defendant’s living room was “inadvertent,” we hold that it was an unconstitutional invasion of the defendant’s expectation of privacy in his home. As such, the Commonwealth could not use the video recording against the defendant.

Thanks to Mark Eckenwiler for making me aware of this case. 

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