People v. Sanchez, 20SC47

Case DateSeptember 13, 2021
CourtSupreme Court of Colorado

2021 CO 63

The People of the State of Colorado, Petitioner

Gabriel Sanchez, Respondent

No. 20SC47

Supreme Court of Colorado, En Banc

September 13, 2021

Certiorari to the Colorado Court of Appeals Court of Appeals Case No. 17CA2178

Attorneys for Petitioner Philip J. Weiser, Attorney General Rebecca A. Adams, Senior Assistant Attorney General Trina Kissel Taylor, Assistant Attorney General Denver, Colorado

Attorney s for Respondent Barker & Tolini P.C. Joshua Tolini Colorado Springs, Colorado



¶1 The People challenge the court of appeals decision reversing Gabriel Sanchez's convictions for two counts of possession. Specifically, they argue that police use of a pole camera to surveil Rafael Tafoya's property-which Sanchez routinely visited-did not violate Sanchez's Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches.

¶2 Before trial, Sanchez moved to suppress all evidence obtained as a result of the pole camera surveillance, including the evidence seized pursuant to a search warrant based on activity police observed from the camera's footage. The trial court found that, while Sanchez had standing to move to suppress, the use of the camera did not constitute a "search" within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment. The court of appeals reversed. It agreed that Sanchez had standing and held that the use of the camera constituted a warrantless search. People v. Sanchez, No. 17CA2178, ¶¶ 20-23 (Dec. 5, 2019). Accordingly, it reversed Sanchez's convictions. Id. at ¶ 24. The People appealed, and we granted certiorari to decide whether the use of the camera constituted a warrantless search in violation of the Fourth Amendment.[1]

¶3 Our opinion in People v. Tafoya, 2021 CO ___, ___ P.3d ___, which we also announce today, resolves this issue. As we explain in Tafoya, under the shared facts of these cases, police use of the pole camera constituted a warrantless search in violation of the Fourth Amendment. Accordingly, we affirm the judgment of the court of appeals.

I. Facts and Procedural History

¶4 We examine the facts and legal issues in this case in more detail in Tafoya. For clarity, we briefly summarize the facts and procedural history of this case.

¶5 Based on a tip from a confidential informant, police installed a video camera near the top of a utility pole across the street from Tafoya's property without first obtaining a warrant. For three months, police continuously surveilled the property through the camera and stored the footage for later review. The area surveilled included portions of...

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