When Police Enter Your Home with a Body Camera
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Most of us in Minnesota have come to realize, our home, abode, our place is the “very core” of the Fourth Amendment for the protection of our privacy. It’s where an individual’s expectation of privacy is at its highest.
This is being challenged by new technologies, such as the body camera. The body camera which is digitally enhanced, possibly high definition, with the ability of what is captured to be magnified, zoomed, looked at and reviewed over and over again. The body camera systems also have other enhanced features such as facial recognition and live-stream. The video is grabbed and stored by government, in this case, law enforcement.
Body cameras have the ability to diminish the domain of your guaranteed privacy without your consent, knowledge, or wherewithal. Sizes of body cameras range from the size of a fist to a large button, and technology is even making them smaller with wider angles.
Law enforcement is of the view that when you consent to allow them to enter into your home, whatever appendages like a body camera they have on whether you notice it or not they can record.
Should law enforcement officers need your specific consent when they knock on your door in non-emergency situations, to record you and the inside your home? My answer is yes.
A POLICE OFFICER CANNOT ENTER YOUR HOME WITHOUT YOUR CONSENT, UNLESS there is legal warrant or exigent circumstances exist. The law is clear that (1) they must have consent and (2) they must request that consent at the time they are seeking entry. There is no guessing about this. Should officers be able to record and tape in your home without your permission, when they are there for non-emergency services and you give them acceptance to come in your home? My answer is no. Specific consent should be needed.
If one invites an officer into their home in a non-emergency call for service, law enforcement does not want the burden to ask your specific permission to videotape. That is the issue. If they must request CONSENT to enter, why are the Police Chief’s and other law enforcement interests so opposed to getting CONSENT to create potentially a permanent record of your place of sanctuary?
With the ease of body cameras of their size and where they can be placed and even without your knowledge, in non-emergency situations, when in your home the device is filming as a continuous “search” (protected by the Fourth Amendment) of anyone or anything that hits it’s lenses. The sensitive ears on these devices also pick up any spoken words.
Again this is non-emergency calls such as about dogs barking, cars parked too long on the street, noisy neighbors, writing reports and taking statements which is the great majority of service calls to private homes. The police are not calling on you to see if you are drug dealer, or a money launderer, or suspect in a crime.
If two officers come to your home without a warrant and not in exigent circumstances with body cameras rolling continuously, their “search” is not limited to the circumstances of what brings them there.
When officers are invited into the home, they do like most of us when one visits someone’s house, discovers things visually. Such as the book that is on the end table or the weird piece of furniture one may have. And one may remember it.
Minnesotans don’t expect law enforcement officers to look at the letters on their desk, glimpse long into the various rooms that they may pass, but this is precisely what body cameras do.
A quick glance in the living room or the bedroom on the way to the kitchen may not inform much with the human eye. But with digitally enhanced, possibly high definition body cameras, the ability of what is captured to be magnified, zoomed in on, and reviewed over and over again can yield much sensitive information.
This is the nub of the question. Should government be able to come into your home with a body cam on a non-emergency situation and videotape your words and whatever it sees which far exceeds the rationale for law enforcement being there in the first place without your specific consent to record? Can they do with a body camera running the very thing a warrant protects against – record forever the exact details of your place of abode. It is technical slight-of-hand to capture evidence.
With body cameras there is intrusion in our homes that is different and unforeseen. Granted these tools can be used to help law enforcement. But should they be used in non-emergency situation in our homes without specific consent to record, without a warrant, and not in exigent circumstances.
Law enforcement takes the position that all videotapes will be private that are filmed in the home, therefore they do not need to get consent or even a strong notification which can enhance an individuals choice. I disagree with the premise – just because the body cam videos are private one does not need consent specific to record in the home.
We live in the 21st Century. The Fourth Amendment to have real meaning with new technologies such as body cams which serve as investigative and surveillance tools need explanation of their true context and spirit.
“[t]he right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly …
Law enforcement has made it clear in the body camera debate at the Legislature, their position, is that you have NO expectation of privacy IN YOUR OWN HOME. When you invite an officer in your home in a non-emergency situation if you do not know or not notice (remember the size range from large button to fist size of body cameras) or do notice…bye-bye to your Fourth Amendment right to specifically consent to be recorded.
A body camera captures more nuts and bolts (views and hears) than a human eye and ear. Captured to the cloud or server the body camera footage which the government has can be used and reviewed over and over again.
The home has had a deep and protracted appreciation of “special protection as the center of the private lives of our people.” The Minnesota Legislature should affirm and acknowledge this and require consent specific to body camera filming in non-emergency situations. Let the Fourth Amendment be realized with this new tech tool, the body camera, draw a firm line at the entrance to the home if there is no warrant or exigent circumstances, consent should be clear cut to record the intimate specifics of an individual and contents of their home.
It is the ordinary citizen who will be fooled by the officer’s friendly demeanor and failure to notify or to request consent to filming. Those in the know, such as lawyers, will condition their consent to an entry on such things as turning the body cam video off, staying in one room, and leaving upon demand. All legal restrictions that most Minnesotans will not think of.