Florida Court Affirms Suppression of Video Surveillance Evidence

Prostitution is illegal in Florida and many other states, as is the solicitation of a prostitute. Thus, the police will often investigate a massage parlor for suspicion of prostitution crimes based on information gleaned from the internet. It can be difficult for the police to obtain evidence sufficient to press charges or obtain a conviction, however. As such, they may seek to install surveillance cameras. In a recent Florida case involving numerous prostitution charges, the court assessed whether footage from hidden surveillance cameras should be suppressed. If you are charged with prostitution or any other sex crime, it is critical to retain a skillful Tampa sex crime defense attorney to help you seek the best outcome available under the facts of your case.

Facts of the Case

It is reported that police officers suspected that illegal sex acts were occurring at three separate massage parlors in Florida. As such, each police department independently obtained a warrant to install hidden cameras to record activity in the areas where the massages occurred, which is where it was suspected the illicit activity took place. The footage revealed that workers in the parlors and men visiting the parlors were engaged in prostitution and solicitation of prostitution. As such, numerous charges were filed. The defendants then filed motions to suppress the surveillance footage. The trial courts granted the motions, and the State appealed. The cases were then consolidated for appeal.

Grounds for Suppressing Surveillance Footage  

On appeal, the appellate court affirmed the trial court rulings, finding that the surveillance constituted an unreasonable search and seizure. Specifically, the appellate court affirmed that the warrants lacked adequate minimalization procedures. The appellate court explained that an order permitting video surveillance should not be issued unless there is probable cause to believe a crime has been committed, the order particularly describes the place to be searched, and the order is sufficiently precise so that it minimizes the recording of activities that are not related to the crimes being investigated.

The order must also be limited to the period long enough to achieve the objective, and the judge issuing the order must find that normal investigative procedures have been unsuccessful. In the subject case, the warrants in question did not have any written parameters that would minimize the recording of innocent patrons of the parlors, and the officers investigating the crimes did not employ minimization techniques. As such, the minimization requirement was not satisfied. The appellate court also determined that the failure to comply with the minimization requirement demonstrated a lack of good faith, and therefore, the evidence was obtained in violation of the right against illegal searches and seizures. Thus, the appellate court affirmed the rulings of the trial courts.

Meet with a Trusted Tampa Attorney

If you are a resident of Tampa and accused of a sex crime, it is prudent to meet with an attorney regarding your rights. William Hanlon of Hanlon Law is a trusted Tampa sex crime defense attorney with the skills and experience needed to help you seek a just result, and he will work tirelessly on your behalf. Mr. Hanlon can be contacted through the online form or at 813-228-7095 to set up a conference.

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