Reporting from Denver — The Colorado Supreme Court ruled Monday that a prosecutor improperly searched thousands of files in a tax preparer's office while looking for illegal immigrants who had committed identity theft.
In a 4-3 decision, the court termed the search a violation of privacy and upheld a lower court's order to throw out evidence against a defendant who had sued.
"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.
Last year, the Weld County district attorney's office had served a search warrant on Amalia's Translation and Tax Services in Greeley, about 60 miles northeast of Denver. Investigators combed through 5,000 files, looking for instances where illegal immigrants had used Social Security numbers that didn't belong to them.