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Court Rules that Security Cameras are Communication Devices

In the state of Arkansas, it is unlawful to use a communication devise in committing or facilitating the commission of any drug-related felony offense. Arkansas Code Annotated section 5-64-404 defines “communication device” as “any public or private instrumentality used or useful in the transmission of a writing, sign, signal, picture, or sound of any kind.” Ark. Code Ann. § 5-64-404(a). Furthermore, the statue provides that a communication device includes “mail, telephone, wire, radio, and any other means of communication.” Id.

In Harjo v. State, the Defendant was charged and convicted of trafficking methamphetamine, possession of drug paraphernalia, simultaneous possession of dugs and firearms, maintaining a drug premises, and possession of marijuana with intent to deliver. He was also convicted of illegally using a communication device to facilitate drug-related activity because he had security cameras placed around the property he resided. Harjo v. State, 2017 Ark. App 337, at 1. In this case, while the police were executing a search warrant in the Defendant’s residence, they found, among other things, firearms, ammunition, a digital scale, night vision goggles, small quantities of packaged marijuana, various pills, and methamphetamine packaged into Ziploc bags. Id. at 2.

The only communication device alleged to have been used to facilitate this drug-related activity were several security cameras that had been placed around the outside of the home. Id. at 5. The Defendant had a multiplex video monitor located in his bedroom where the images from the security cameras appeared. Id. On appeal, the Defendant argued that these security cameras did not meet the definition of “communication device” as it appears in the statute quoted above. Id.

The Arkansas Court of Appeals found that just because “security cameras” are not specifically named in the statute, does not mean that they do not fall under the catchall phrase “any other means of communication.” Id. According to the Court, security cameras, which are capable of transmitting images to a monitor, meet the statutory definition of “communication device.” Harjo v. State, 2017 Ark. App. 337, at 5. The Defendant failed to argue that the cameras were used for security purposes only and not used to facilitate drug-related activity at the trial level, therefore, he did not get the opportunity to argue that point on appeal. Id. at 5-6.

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