In an amicus brief filed in the U.S. Supreme Court on November 12, 2021, the Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT) joined with allied groups in urging the Court to accept review of Tuggle v. United States. The case seeks to challenge warrantless surveillance by police that lasted for a period of 18 months, using three hidden video cameras attached to utility poles and pointed at the area immediately outside Mr. Tuggle’s home. CDT filed the brief along with the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), Brennan Center for Justice, Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), and National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL).
The brief urges that the Supreme Court should hear the case because (1) as explained in Mr. Tuggle’s cert petition, there is a split of authority in the lower courts that needs to be resolved; and (2) this case involves important questions regarding whether the Fourth Amendment prohibits warrantless long-term video surveillance of areas surrounding a home, even when those areas are exposed to the public.
The brief outlines how over time, camera technology has significantly advanced while the costs of camera systems and digital storage have significantly decreased, thereby enabling highly intrusive surveillance that police departments would be unable to conduct through officers on stakeout. It also explains how the case implicates two important lines of Fourth Amendment precedent: that involving the special protection of the home and that concerning the power of modern digital technologies to invade privacy. Finally, the brief urges that the safeguards of the Fourth Amendment should not depend on whether people can afford to build a fence around their property, a rule that would disproportionately harm low-income people.