The Colorado Supreme Court has ruled that a bookstore is not required to provide customer information to help police in a drug investigation. Such an action, ruled the court, would violate an individual's First Amendment right to buy books anonymously
As part of an ongoing drug investigation, the Thornton (Colorado) Police and the federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) were monitoring a trailer home in March 2000. The law enforcement officials suspected that a methamphetamine lab was being operated out of the trailer; several individuals lived at the residence, however, and not all were suspected of being part of the drug manufacturing operation.
On March 13, 2000, one of the officers searched through some garbage from the trailer home. He found evidence of a drug operation and a mailing envelope from the Tattered Cover, a bookstore, addressed to one of the suspects. The label on the mailer listed the invoice number, order number, and customer phone number. However, there was no clue to the titles of particular books that had been purchased.
The next day, the officers executed a search warrant on the trailer home. In one room, they found evidence of the drug operation. In the next room, the officers found two books: Advanced Techniques of Clandestine Psychedelic and Amphetamine Manufacture and The Construction and Operation of Clandestine Drug Laboratories. The two books seemed to fit the dimensions of the mailer.
Officers searched the bookstore's Web site and found that the Tattered Cover sold both books. The DEA issued an administrative subpoena against the bookstore, demanding the title of the books corresponding to the order and invoice numbers as well as information on all books ever purchased by the suspect. Though such a …