Federal Judge Rules Hidden Microphones in Public Do Not Violate Constitution

fbi-spyingBy Derrick Broze

A federal judge has ruled that law enforcement may continue to place recording devices in public places because it does not violate the constitutional guarantee against warrantless searches and privacy protections. 

On Friday July 22, U.S. District Judge Phyllis Hamilton issued a 17-page ruling which found the practice of placing recording devices on the steps of courthouses in Oakland and Martinez, California to be “unsettling,” but not in violation of the Fourth Amendment. The four defendants in the federal criminal fraud case are accused of rigging real estate bids throughout Alameda and Contra Costa Counties.

In an attempt to eavesdrop on the conversations of the defendants, the Federal Bureau of Investigations placed microphones in a light fixture on the steps of the Almeda County Courthouse and just outside the Contra Costa County Courthouse, among other locations. The information gathered from the conversations was then used as evidence in grand jury proceedings.

The defense called the secret recordings a violation of Fourth Amendment protections against illegal search and seizure and asked for the evidence to be suppressed. Judge Hamilton ruled that the four defendants did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy when speaking in public about the alleged fraud.

“While the court agrees with defendants that it is at the very least unsettling that the government would plant listening devices on the courthouse steps given the personal nature of many of the conversations in which people exiting the courthouse might be engaged, it is equally unrealistic for anyone to believe that open public behavior including conversations can be private given that there are video cameras on many street corners, storefronts and front porches, and in the hand of nearly every person who owns a smartphone,” Hamilton wrote in her ruling.

The four defendants, Michael Marr, Gregory Casorso, Javier Sanchez and Victor Marr, are accused of conspiring to restrain competition by agreeing not to compete with one another during auctions for foreclosed properties and then splitting the proceeds or taking place in private secondary auctions known as “rounds.”

The defense team attempted to argue that the men were huddled together speaking in hushed tones, indicating a significant effort to keep their conversations private. Judge Hamilton disagreed, noting that the recording devices did not amplify the sound and that all four men can be heard discussing their plan in normal voices and even shouting over a jackhammer at one point.

“Privacy advocates are concerned the ruling could establish a precedent allowing law enforcement to eavesdrop on attorneys and clients discussing aspects of their cases outside the courtroom,” Courthouse News writes. Despite the privacy worries, Judge Hamilton assured the court that, “It is unlikely, and certainly unreasonable, for attorneys to risk breaching their confidential communications with clients by discussing sensitive matters out in the open, in conversational tones, in front of a public forum such as a courthouse.”

Still, there is reason to be concerned about the government installing hidden recording devices in public. As with other surveillance tools like the Stingray cellphone surveillance, once the feds are caught they drop the evidence so they do not have to offer an explanation. If law enforcement is not even willing to legally use these tools and provide valid reasoning to justify the use of invasive tools, what is the point of spending millions of dollars on surveillance equipment?

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For more information on this case and examples of surveillance see:

Why Is The Federal Government Planting Microphones In Public?

Why Is The Federal Government Installing Mysterious Boxes On Utility Poles?

Image Credit: TheFreeThoughtProject.com

Derrick Broze is an investigative journalist and liberty activist. He is the Lead Investigative Reporter for ActivistPost.com and the founder of the TheConsciousResistance.com. Follow him on Twitter. Derrick is the author of two books: The Conscious Resistance: Reflections on Anarchy and Spirituality and Finding Freedom in an Age of Confusion.

Derrick is available for interviews. Please contact Derrick@activistpost.com

This article may be freely reposted in part or in full with author attribution and source link.

  • Me First

    Gee, I wonder when they’ll invent a little device to plant in our heads so they can read our minds?

    • Alan

      Maybe sooner than you think. If you recall, some think we should microchip kids like we do our dogs.

    • Nohwhat

      I knew you would say that,

    • I_P_Frehley

      Why bother? With all the info some people vomit up all over social media sites, there is no need for that…yet

    • Muhammad Abbass

      No need to readthem, they found shrinking and actively programming our minds to be easier.

  • Need lots of little government drones with directional mikes on ’em. At the same time, we’d better ban private citizens recording anything in public. YouTube is costing the entertainment industry money – videos of construction equipment must be stopped!

  • legal eagle

    Ok, so we set up mics in front and in back of the judge’s house and office along with any cops that can be traced down to record anything and everything they say. No problem if the soundbites are later spliced to concoct a complete lie, it’s not unconstitutional. 5th amendment, wiretaps.

  • desertspeaks

    hmm but you can’t film/record the taco supreme court in session.. how odd!

    • I_P_Frehley

      I thought court proceedings were a matter of public record?

      • desertspeaks

        the taco supreme court removed itself from such trivialities.. how can you hide your contempt for the people and fraud perpetrated on an unsuspecting public if it’s recorded for everyone to see??

        • I_P_Frehley

          Taco Supreme now? Shame…I liked them better when they were Nacho Supreme Court, or even before they sold out were still Burrito Supreme.

          • desertspeaks

            lol

  • anonymous4u4me

    Well lets see how the judge feels about the public putting one in his bedroom.

  • Al Kene

    While I may not have an expectation of privacy in a public place, recording without any reasonable notification it’s being done seems a little unsavory.
    Would cops and courts prefer that they be monitored without their knowledge?

  • Craig Schmalz

    I think we should have microphones in every office of every senator, representative, president, judges, cops, any public servant.

    • Tuaca1107

      That is the perfect place for the mics!!

    • I_P_Frehley

      Didn’t Nixon do something along those lines (but not exactly)?

      • Craig Schmalz

        He was bugging the DNC offices to get their secrets I believe.

    • needful

      great point,let’s hear what our (elected) officials are saying,after all we pay their pay checks right!!

    • Pamela Cohen

      After all, they work for us.

    • Muhammad Abbass

      And every orifice…

      • Craig Schmalz

        Hahahaha

  • Paul Panza

    It is time for the citizen spy to step forward like I used to do in the form of a non-profit with a name that replicates an association with some corporate and/or government purview then dawn a suit and with your corporate letterhead establish meetings with the closed door meetings of planning commissions, corporate think-tank non-profits, etc. then when you go to attend plant mics and wear a wire. Publish the results in as many ways possible; it is time to turn the tables on these welfare mega-corporations that are planning our demise like utilities, Big Pharma/Ag, defense contractors, chem-trail providers, all the would-be corporate criminals. If you see something, say something; become your own legal whistle-blower, a spy for the people. Imagine infiltrating clubs, brothels where the elite hang out and exposing their dirt. It’s time to rain on these capitalist pigs. I am the past president of the Regional Environmental Monitoring Association and responsible for stopping sludge ponds, infectious waste incinerators, microwave towers etc. by exposing content of planning at public hearings and/or licensing procedures behind closed doors with criminal corps planning toxic harm to the community.

    • See Janus

      Can you add mandatory fluoridation to your list? How do we clean up all the legal pharmaceutical drugs in our drinking water? How can we eliminate all the chemical spraying by government entities and school districts?

  • Pyra Gorgon

    Nearly every problem killing us today can be traced back to the microprocessor.

  • thompsoj

    This needs to be apealed to a higher court. Very dangerous precedence. Don’t think it will stand. I’m a staunch conservative but don’t like the sound of this.

  • Joel WS

    When Law Students are actively discouraged from reading the U.S. Constitution and then are TOLD what it means by the Professors, is it any wonder this ‘Judge’ has no idea that the original intent of the Constitution was to severely limit government’s intrusive power over the citizens? This mal-education promotes contrived personal notions as to what seems legally “OK” for the government to impose. The thought process involved may be logical, yet yield a ‘legal opinion’ which is complete fallacy. Fallacy which then becomes ‘precedence’ and is accepted as law of the land. This is how Liberty is lost, by attrition. This is how a Representative Republic is destroyed, by Judicial Fiat.

    • See Janus

      Excellent analysis, and then there is the further “reinforcement” problem since law students obtain much higher scores when they regurgitate their professor’s notions back to them. Thinking for oneself, reading the original documents in their original semantics is rare.

  • Alan

    We get closer to Orwell’s 1984 every day, cameras everywhere we go, now microphones. If they can get away with this in public places they will soon decide it would be good in private businesses and then homes.

    • blue579

      Some folks from Google already thought of that. They introduced the idea of routinely putting cameras in every room of our homes for our “security”. In addition, two years ago they filed a patent for an optical implant that would place a camera inside a person’s eyeball. http://www.thedailysheeple (dot) com/google-has-a-patent-for-a-surgically-planted-eyeball-camera_052016

  • Kevin Roberts

    Just another witch hunt by the FBI and the DOJ. I guarantee nothing was done by these guys that had any bad intentions. But only the Clintons get off on that defense.

  • Mathew Molk

    The key here is “reasonable expatiation of privacy”

  • AWB2

    “…it is equally unrealistic for anyone to believe that open public
    behavior including conversations can be private given that there are
    video cameras on many street corners, storefronts and front porches, and
    in the hand of nearly every person who owns a smartphone,”

    Interesting. Since the 4th Amendment is already trashed, there there can be no prohibition against it continued use of public eavesdropping by the government. As the God given rights fall, one by one, so does the entire Constitution. Further, with the current set of Executive Orders the sitting president can make him/her self Emperor, and suspend any or all of the federal and state governments and their original intended functions. What are they waiting for? A real or contrived event where the citizens will demand federal action in response to some “crises”. Kickier: No real crises is required for implication for this level of local or national Martial Law. It has already been selectively used in the U.S.

  • Nohwhat

    Microphones on The President, Vice, Senators, Congress, Judges, Police, etc should become LAW. If they work for us we have the RIGHT to know what they say, Always.

  • Nohwhat

    Silence is Golden

  • I_P_Frehley

    So public servants, those whose salaries are paid by tax payers, cannot be recorded while performing their jobs (because of privacy concerns), but we can be spied on in public with no expectation of privacy? Gotcha, film the cops, judges and every other government official all the time people.

  • William Burke

    Through the looking glass….

  • carpkiller

    This judge needs everything he sits in,walks into, every place he goes,miced. Public restrooms,everything. If he farts it should be recorded until he screws up something.

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