Central District of Illinois Carpenter does not apply to pole cameras placed in public places to conduct surveillance of Defendant’s house

After a hearing, a federal judge has denied a Motion to Suppress regarding the results of surveillance that was done from the front of the Defendant’s house by the use of pole cameras.

The Defendant here is being prosecuted as a result of an almost three year long narcotics investigation. The Defendant is accused of using his house for drug trafficking in furtherance of the conspiracy. The Government maintained three pole cameras on public property in the surrounding area of Defendant’s residence. These cameras were in operation for almost two years, and the Government never sought a warrant to install these cameras and point them at the Defendant’s property.

The District Court rejected the Defendant’s argument that the Defendant had a reasonable expectation of privacy in the activities recorded by the pole cameras and also held that the length of the surveillance did not matter for Fourth Amendment purposes.

The District Court so held because law enforcement never physically intruded on the defendant’s property when they installed and monitored the pole cameras. To the Court, the inquiry then became whether he had a subjective expectation of privacy in his driveway and front of his house. Since the “Defendant’s residence was located in a populated residential area and had no fence, wall, or other object that would obstruct the view of a passerby. The lack of any attempt to obscure his driveway or residence from public view weights against a finding that he ‘manifested a subjective expectation of privacy in the object of the challenged search,'” citing Kyllo v. United States. The Court also stated that even if Defendant had a subjective expectation of privacy in his driveway and the front of his house, it is not one that society would find reasonable.

The District Court also rejected the defendant’s argument that the 18-month surveillance is similar to the GPS tracking of a car as in United States v. Jones, 565 U.S. 400, 414, 132 S. Ct. 945, 181 L. Ed. 2d 911 (2012). The Court decided that the fixed location of the cameras made this nothing like the roving surveillance as in Jones, citing decisions out of other Circuits.

The case is United States v. Tuggle, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 127333, 2018 WL 3631881 (C.D. Ill.) (July 31).

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