TULSA - Rogers County Sheriff Scott Walton says his office violated no laws by putting a surveillance camera on private land without a warrant, and he has federal case law to back up his argument.
After reporting the issue raised during a meeting of the Rogers County Commission which took place June 9, KRMG contacted Walton for his response.
He was adamant, saying "we're not in the business of violating people's rights, we're in the business of putting criminals in jail and that's what we're trying to do."
He says Commissioner Kirt Thacker used county-owned equipment, after hours, to make improvements to his land.
The camera was placed in order to document the activity.
Thacker said in Monday's meeting that his Fourth Amendment right against illegal search had been violated.
But, when questioned by KRMG, Walton referred to a case from the U.S. Supreme Court he says is directly on point: United States v. Dunn, 480 U.S. 294 (1987).
The ruling is based on the "open fields doctrine," which holds that a warrantless search of property outside the owner's curtilage (the home and its immediate surroundings) does not violate the Fourth Amendment.
"We followed the law to the letter. We're right, our house is in order," Walton said.
However, it's unclear if using an electronic surveillance device is covered under the Dunn ruling, or earlier rulings on the open field exception.
Walton says a multi-county grand jury is still investigating Thacker, and his office's investigation is also ongoing.