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December 16, 2009

Colorado Supreme Court ruled that evidence of identity theft found during search of tax records office was illegal

In a 4 to 3 decision, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that a prosecutor's search of 5,000 tax files while looking for evidence of identity theft by illegal immigrants was an invasion of privacy.  In so doing, the Colorado Supreme Court upheld a lower court's ruling.

Last year, a Weld County, Colorado district attorney served a search warrant on Amalia's Translation and Tax Service in Greeley, Colorado, which is located about 60 miles from Denver.  What prosecutors were after were any instances where illegal immigrants had used someone else's Social Security numbers on their tax returns.

Advocates of both privacy and immigrants called the search intrusive and, eventually, a lower court agreed.  But not before approximately 30 illegal immigrants had plead guilty to identity theft and turned over to authorities to be deported. 

"A taxpayer has a reasonable expectation of privacy in his or her tax returns and return information, even when that information is in the custody of a tax preparer," Justice Michael L. Bender wrote in the court's opinion.

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