Some Privacy Rights Still Exist in Pennsylvania
In Commonwealth v. Dunnavant, 63 a.3d 1252 (Pa. Super. 2013), the Superior Court addressed whether a confidential informant working on behalf of law enforcement is permitted to wear a silent video camera inside a citizen’s residence without a search warrant. In Dunnavant, a confidential informant contacted an acquaintance for the purpose of purchasing a controlled substance. The transaction was planned to occur on a public street corner. Prior to appearing at the agreed upon location, law enforcement officers met with the confidential informant and placed a hidden digital video camera on him/her. Law enforcement officers also supplied the confidential informant with pre-recorded “buy money” to use in the transaction and turned on the digital video camera to capture video evidence of the transaction. The confidential informant was then driven to the street corner where he/she had agreed to meet the acquaintance. However, when the confidential informant arrived at the street corner, the Defendant requested that he get into the Defendant’s vehicle. The two then drove to the Defendant’s residence and entered the residence together. The video camera captured the confidential informant and the Defendant entering the residence and sitting in the living room. In addition, it captured the Defendant leaving the living room and returning with an envelope which he handed to the confidential informant in exchange for the “buy money.”
The Defendant filed an omnibus pretrial motion challenging the admissibility of the video evidence. Specifically, the Defendant argued that he had a reasonable expectation of privacy with respect to activities that occur inside his home and therefore requested that the video evidence be suppressed pursuant to a violation of article 1, section 8 of the Pennsylvania Constitution and the fourth amendment of the United States Constitution. The trial court agreed and pursuant to the exclusionary rule suppressed the portion of the video which related to the inside of the Defendant’s residence. The Superior Court affirmed the trial court’s decision and held that this conduct constituted a per se unreasonable search of the Defendant’s residence. The Court further held that the use of the silent video camera inside the Defendant’s home without a warrant was an unconstitutional invasion of the Defendant’s expectation of privacy.
The Commonwealth filed a Petition for Allowance of Appeal of the Superior Court’s decision. On July 31, 2013, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court granted the Commonwealth’s Petition for Allowance of Appeal. This article will be updated upon the Pennsylvania Supreme Court issuing its decision, which is likely to occur within the next six months.
This article is not legal advice and is provided for informational purposes only. Actual legal advice can only be provided after consultation by an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.