Santa Ana Police Had No Right to Expect Privacy During a Pot Shop Raid: Court of Appeal

A still frame of security footage of the 2015 raid on Sky High Holistic.

California’s Fourth District Court of Appeal has ruled that police officers raiding an unlicensed marijuana dispensary suffered no injury to their privacy rights when a closed circuit video camera recorded their actions, because although they believed they had disabled all such cameras, it was unreasonable of them to conclude they were not being recorded.

The Court’s summary in Santa Ana Police Officers Association v. City of Santa Ana:

Two City of Santa Ana Police officers were the subjects of an internal affairs investigation based on their conduct during the execution of a search warrant at a marijuana dispensary. The Santa Ana Police Department initiated the investigation after video recordings of the officers were released to the media. The video recordings were made by the dispensary owners without the knowledge of the officers, who had removed all known recording devices before executing the warrant. Plaintiffs Santa Ana Police Officers Association (SAPOA) and the officers (collectively, Plaintiffs) brought this lawsuit against the City of Santa Ana, the Santa Ana Police Department, and the Santa Ana Chief of Police (collectively, Defendants) and asserted (that) (d)efendants violated the California Invasion of Privacy Act by using the video recordings made at the marijuana dispensary as the basis for, and as evidence in, the internal affairs investigation . . . The Court of Appeals concluded the Complaint did not, and could not, state a violation of the California Invasion of Privacy Act because the officers had no reasonable expectation as a matter of law that their communications during the raid of the marijuana dispensary were not being overheard, watched, or recorded.

Correction: An earlier version of this story reported officers ate marijuana. Voice of OC regrets the error.

Here is the video at the center of the case:

Terry Francke is Voice of OC’s Open Government & Public Records Consultant and general counsel to Californians Aware.

  • Tyler Boggs

    I suggest that not only did they have no expectation of privacy, but the police had no right to disable any cameras in the store. It’s not a crime to openly record the police in the execution of their duties — citizens have a right to do this. It’s illegal for the police to take, destroy, or otherwise disable the cameras being used for this.

  • Jack Milliken

    Gangsta cops

  • Paul Lucas

    and yet the cop got reinstated to his position. There is no trust in our institutions checks and balances.

  • Manuel Delgadillo

    Are you sure the officers ate the cannabis edibles? Things are not always what they seem….

    • LFOldTimer

      Then what was he putting in his pie hole on the video?

      And why no drug test afterwards?

      • Manuel Delgadillo

        The truth will come out and that will change your negativity.

        • LFOldTimer

          Why don’t you just answer my questions so we can iron this out right now as opposed to waiting for the “truth to come out”?

          I know what I saw with my own eyes on the video. My eyes don’t lie. There was certainly destruction of private property and very unprofessional behavior by those who are supposed to behave with the highest ethical standards.

  • A Freedom Fighter

    Dirty corrupt cops deliberately destroyed property and cameras to assure that they could act illegally without repercussions. Fortunately for truth and Justice this blew up in their face when they were discovered on secret cameras stealing property, eating cannabis and maligning citizens in there conversations. Unfortunately these cops are pretty typical of what we can expect from law enforcement these days. Arrogant, out of control, corrupt and looking for trouble. All of these dirty cops have been fired immediately and arrested for Grand Theft and vandalism.

    • verifiedsane

      I believe you meant to say…these cops should have been fired and indicted for grand thief & vandalism…instead they were re-hired with back pay and no charges were brought..

  • LFOldTimer

    Thanks again, Fourth Circuit.

    You scored a win for truth and justice w/regard to the illegal informant scam in the OC jails.

    And now you knocked another one over the center field fence on the SA marijuana dispensary raid.

    You continue to give us hope that the entire system hasn’t yet been sold out to the highest bidder.

    The cops tried to use you to offer a veneer of inside protection and circle the wagons so they could walk away from outright police misconduct and corruption.

    From the bottom of our hearts we offer you a heartfelt deep appreciation for walking the straight and narrow.

    Screw POBOR.