Whether the Fourth Amendment protects against warrantless long-term, continuous, and covert pole camera surveillance of the outside of a person’s home.
Our homes are more than where we sleep—they are where we work, go to school, socialize. Round-the-clock video surveillance of the outside of our homes can reveal can reveal our daily routine, who we associate with, what we purchase, and many other intimate details, especially as camera and video analytical technology advances to allow for automated pan, tilt, and zoom, the ability to read and identify small text from long distances, face recognition, and more.
Law enforcement use pole-mounted cameras to surveil the areas outside suspects’ homes, often without a warrant. As the technological capabilities of video surveillance continue to rapidly advance, these surveillance strategies will only become more intrusive.
Federal agents installed three pole-mounted cameras outside Tuggle’s home between 2014 and 2016, monitoring his comings and goings 24/7 for eighteen months—all without a warrant. The cameras had pan, tilt, and zoom technology and allowed agents to view the footage both in real-time and later.
After being indicted, Tuggle filed several motions in federal district court to suppress evidence from the cameras, arguing the warrantless search violated the Fourth Amendment. After the district court denied these motions, Tuggle appealed to the Seventh Circuit, which upheld the warrantless pole camera surveillance. The Seventh Circuit’s decision deepened a split among the circuit courts concerning whether warrantless video surveillance of the outside of a person’s home violates the Fourth Amendment. On October 8, 2021, Tuggle filed a petition for a writ of certiorari, requesting Supreme Court review of the Seventh Circuit decision.
On November 12, 2021, EPIC, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Brennan Center for Justice, Center for Democracy & Technology, and National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers filed an amicus brief supporting Supreme Court review of the Seventh Circuit’s decision in Tuggle v. United States. The brief called on the Supreme Court to examine how advances in pole camera surveillance affect Fourth Amendment rights. The brief explained how advances in pole camera technology and decreases in costs have made long-term, perpetual, and intrusive surveillance efficient and affordable for law enforcement, where human surveillance would have been infeasible. The brief also challenged the argument that people should erect fences to shield themselves from police surveillance, not only because such a requirement would be unreasonable, but also because it would be disproportionately burdensome for non-homeowners, lower income people, and people of color.