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Justices Decline to Hear Home Surveillance Privacy Case


  • Case questioned Fourth Amendment’s privacy protections

  • Appeals courts split on pole camera monitoring

The U.S. Supreme Court won’t review a case questioning the constitutionality of warrantless surveillance of a suspected drug trafficker’s home.

The case asked whether law enforcement violated the Fourth Amendment’s privacy protections by monitoring Travis Tuggle’s movements over 18 months after installing hidden video cameras on utility poles without obtaining a warrant.

Appeals courts have split on whether pole camera surveillance is an unconstitutional invasion of privacy. The First, Sixth, and Seventh Circuits have held that long-term warrantless surveillance of a home doesn’t implicate the Fourth Amendment, according to Tuggle’s petition. The Fifth Circuit and some state supreme courts have found that such surveillance does amount to a search.

As part of a drug trafficking investigation, federal law enforcement agents used evidence from so-called pole camera surveillance to secure and execute warrants for searching Tuggle’s home, which later led to his indictment on drug-related charges. Tuggle sought to suppress the pole camera evidence, arguing that it was gathered illegally.

His request for Supreme Court review came after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit found that the surveillance didn’t raise privacy concerns because the pole cameras captured movements that also could be seen by someone passing by Tuggle’s home or by a law enforcement agent watching the home.

Privacy groups including the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Brennan Center for Justice filed a brief in the case, calling on the justices to step in as police use of pole camera surveillance is expected to become more common and more sophisticated.

The case is Tuggle v. United States , U.S., No. 21-541, petition for review denied 2/22/22 .

To contact the reporter on this story: Andrea Vittorio in Washington at avittorio@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Kibkabe Araya at karaya@bloombergindustry.com

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