Warrantless Access to Video Surveillance Tapes by Police is Main IssueIn a letter faxed earlier today, the ACLU of Virginia asked the Prince William County Board of Supervisors to turn down a proposed ordinance that regulates adult businesses by requiring them to install security cameras and to make the video tapes available to the police upon request.
The Board of Supervisors is holding a public hearing on the ordinance prior to or at its regularly scheduled meeting tomorrow, Tuesday, July 22.
Under the proposed ordinance, all adult businesses must have a “security specialist” install surveillance cameras that “continuously monitor all entrances, parking areas and all areas of the establishment where adult business is conducted.” The cameras must provide “clear imagery” of all “patrons and their vehicles,” and the video tapes must be preserved for four months. Police are allowed to have access to the tapes at any time “upon request.”
The ACLU says it may file a lawsuit if the ordinance is adopted. Although no official decision has been made regarding litigation because the ordinance has not passed, the ACLU decided last year to mount a legal challenge against a nearly identical ordinance adopted by Chesterfield County. The ACLU has offered to provide legal representation to any adult business owner in Chesterfield who is asked to turn over tapes to the police. As far as the ACLU knows, however, no adult store owner has been asked to give tapes to any government official in Chesterfield County.
“The Supreme Court has ruled that most sexually explicit books and videos are protected by the First Amendment, but that adult stores may be regulated to reduce undesirable side effects on other businesses and residential areas,” said ACLU of Virginia executive director Kent Willis.
“The Prince William ordinance, however, is a sham,” added Willis. “The supervisors are not trying to regulate the side effects of adult businesses; they just want to scare away customers by letting them know that their every move is being taped for viewing by the police.”
Calling the ordinance “an immense violation of privacy,” ACLU of Virginia legal director Rebecca K. Glenberg writes in her letter to the Board of Supervisors: “ This provision is an egregious violation of the constitutional rights of adult business owners and their patrons. First, it violates the Fourth Amendment right of business owners to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures, in that it allows police to seize property without a warrant or probable cause… Moreover, the provision violates customers’ First Amendment right to receive information with privacy and anonymity.”
A copy of the letter sent by the ACLU of Virginia is available at http://acluva.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/12/20030721-Pr-William-Porn-Ord-03.pdf.
Contacts: Kent Willis, Executive Director, ACLU of Virginia, 804-644-8022 Rebecca K. Glenberg, Legal Director, ACLU of Virginia, 804-644-8022