United States v. Tuggle, No. 20-2352 (7th Cir. 2021)Annotate this Case
In 2013-2016, law enforcement investigated a large methamphetamine distribution conspiracy, installing three cameras on utility poles on public property that viewed Tuggle’s home and a shed owned by Tuggle’s coconspirator, Vaultonburg. The cameras recorded around the clock. Rudimentary lighting technology improved the quality of overnight footage; agents could remotely zoom, pan, and tilt the cameras and review the camera footage in real-time or later. Officers tallied over 100 instances of what they suspected were deliveries of methamphetamine to Tuggle’s residence. After these alleged “drops,” different individuals would arrive, enter the home, and purportedly buy methamphetamine. Several witnesses corroborated these activities. Relying heavily on the video evidence, officers secured and executed search warrants on several locations, including Tuggle’s house.
After the denial of his motions to suppress, Tuggle pled guilty under 21 U.S.C. 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)(A) to conspiring to distribute, and possess with intent to distribute, at least 50 grams of methamphetamine and at least 500 grams of a mixture containing methamphetamine, and 21 U.S.C. 856(a)(1) for maintaining a drug-involved premises. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The government used commonplace technology, located where officers were lawfully entitled to be, and captured events observable to any ordinary passerby; it did not invade an expectation of privacy that society would be prepared to accept as reasonable. The prolonged, uninterrupted use of pole cameras did not constitute a Fourth Amendment search.