Hickory Dickory Dock. I’m Watching You Bone With My Clock

I’m all about privacy rights and curbing police overreach, but this doesn’t sit right with me at all. Police had no right to seize hidden bedside camera from Airbnb condo, judge says
Owner argued police breached his rights by entering apartment, seizing camera without warrant

The gist of the story is basically what the headline says. Fella rents a place on Airbnb. While there, he discovers that eww gross, there’s a clock pointing at the bed that has a hidden camera in it. Airbnb is contacted. They advise that police be contacted as well. They are. The camera is seized. It’s later searched, and videos of several different people doing the sorts of things that people do in bedrooms when they think they’re not being watched by cameras hidden in clocks are found.

The next step should be easy. Find out how that camera got there, arrest the responsible party, have a trial and then somebody goes to jail for a while or at least pays a hefty fine if found guilty, which seems likely because cameras don’t just show up in apartment bedrooms and hide themselves in a creepy, voyeuristic manner.

But this is where things go sideways, at least to my brain.

At trial, the owner argued for exclusion of the video evidence on the basis that police violated his rights with the warrantless search and seizure.

Lewis testified he made no attempt to contact the owner before entering the condo.
He said he believed he was justified in going in at Wallenberg’s invitation because the Airbnb guest had the key and temporary ownership of the unit. He said he seized the device on the advice of the detective to preserve potential evidence.
In his analysis, Bovard said a key issue in deciding whether police had breached the condo owner’s charter right against unreasonable search and seizure was whether the owner had a reasonable expectation of privacy in the condo unit.

Bovard concluded the condo owner did have a reasonable expectation of privacy, given evidence that he was the sole owner of the apartment, it was filled with his possessions, and he used it himself at times.
“In these circumstances, [the owner] had a subjective expectation of privacy in the apartment,” Bovard concluded. “[He] had a reasonable expectation of privacy in the clock-camera and in the contents of the SD memory card.”
The judge also rejected prosecution arguments that by renting out his condo to Wallenberg, the condo owner had undermined his own privacy expectations.

“Whatever rights Mr. Wallenberg had over the apartment, he could not waive [the owner’s] privacy rights in the apartment and its contents,” Bovard said. 
The judge also concluded the officer’s suspicion of possible criminal activity did not give him the right to seize the clock-camera or allow police to inspect it without a warrant.
Bovard said he realized that excluding the evidence would gut the prosecution’s case, but said he had to do so anyway given the cumulative charter violations.

I’ll admit I haven’t taken a law class since high school, but finding a fucking hidden camera in the bedroom I’m renting sounds exactly like the sort of thing that cause for a search is made of. Yes, the cops probably should have gotten a warrant just to cross their Ts and dot their Is, but the way this reads it’s like the poor schmuck renting the place has no privacy rights of his own simply because he isn’t the homeowner. His right to privacy should be equal to that of anyone else especially since he’s paying, should it not? And if that’s the case, should it not `be made clear by the owner ahead of time that surveillance equipment creepy and otherwise is being used? Seems to me that we maybe could have avoided this whole thing that way.

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2 Comments

  1. It’s such an interesting moral gray area. I kind of love it because I can see both sides, and Airbnb, as a person who lives with one of them soon to be too, it’s really creepy. I wouldn’t want somebody to just barge into my house without a warrant either, but then I’m also not hiding sketchy cameras in the bed and then recording everyone. It’s a really interesting argument and I’m actually not sure how I feel about it. I read this the other day and I had the same reaction.

    1. Yeah.  It’s definitely an interesting argument.  My problem is mostly with this particular camera rather than with the idea of cameras in general.  I’m having a lot of trouble with the idea that there’s a valid reason to point a camera at a bed like that. For me it’s on the same level as a hidden bathroom camera or when somebody hides one in a store’s change room, for example.  There’s exactly one reason why a person would do that, and it isn’t a legal one.  And I’m having trouble understanding how the occupant giving consent for the police to enter doesn’t count when there’s a very reasonable suspicion that a crime is being committed.  This all strikes me as something that should be appealed if possible.

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