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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Recording of Arrestee While in Police Car Does Not Violate Privacy

Webster was arrested on March 11, 2011, when police officers went to a residence in South Bend, Indiana, in response to an anonymous tip.  As two officers proceeded to the front door, a third officer heard a door close and went to the yard on the side of the house where he encountered Webster, a resident of the home.  Webster had $2,296 in cash on his person, and the officers smelled a strong odor of marijuana coming from the house and on Webster’s clothing. Both Webster and another suspect who was apprehended after running from the home were then placed in the caged back seat of a squad car while officers sought a search warrant for the home. The internal video camera in the car recorded all conversations in the vehicle, including a phone call made by Webster.  

Webster was convicted, and appealed to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. U.S. v. Webster (7th Cir, 2015).  He argued that the trial court erred in allowing the squad car recording to be used as evidence against him, claiming it was a violation of his right to privacy in violation of the Fourth Amendment.  The Seventh Circuit disagreed, and upheld his conviction.  the Court found that that Webster did not have a "reasonable expectation of privacy" in the back of a police squad car because a squad car is a place bristling with electronics, and the practical realities of the situation would be apparent to occupants, including Webster.

Post Authored by Steve Mahrt, Ancel Glink


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