Kids playing ball in the street know when a ball is hit into your yard, they should walk lightly in retrieving it because it is on private property. People walking down the sidewalk know that the yard around each house is private property. If someone pulls their car into your driveway they can expect to be challenged if they are uninvited.
So why does the Ninth District Court of Appeals in California think that it is okay for police to not know what everyone else knows? In a case that is expected to reach the Supreme Court in Washington, the court ruled that police can walk on to your property in the dead of night, place a gps device on your car and then track your moves for as long as the device works. In this particular case, Juan Pindeda-Moreno (UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. JUAN PINEDA-MORENO, Defendant-Appellant - No. 08-30385) is suspect of growing marijuana. His Jeep was parked in his driveway next to a trailer, his home, while he slept in the middle of the night. Police tryed to catch him in the act of visiting his little farm decide to attach the gps to the car in the middle of the night.
The court ruled, with only one dissent and two appeals to the same court, that people do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy when their car is parked in the driveway. Since the court doesn’t know what everyone else knows, that your driveway is your private property, it stated that police could then attach the device to carry out their mission.
Courts must take an overview and often wax philosophically in crafting a ruling. Application of law is not always as straight forward as it seems. But, in this case, the court applied a ruling that doesn’t resonate with real life in the community. If we can’t have an expectation of privacy around our home, then where can the line be drawn? The court said that fences, no trespassing signs, borders or other things must be built before our privacy can be guaranteed. That may be reasonably true when we approach a farmer’s field where the line from on piece of property to another may be blurred. But, any reasonable individual walking or driving down a street would have a very good idea where the yard of a house is and that motor vehicles in that yard are on private property. Before police can approach a car in that position, they must have a search warrant.
This is an erosion of our rights to the community and off sets that balance between individuals and the community. By the way, this ruling happen in the middle of August and here we are in September before we hear about it in the media. It took the media much too long to mention this case. When asked, the Supreme Court should over turn this ruling and push back the line to a place of reasonable balance.
A balance that even kids playing in the street of any neighborhood knows.