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United States v. Tuggle

United States District Court, C.D. Illinois

July 31, 2018

TRAVIS TUGGLE, et al., Defendants.


          James E. Shadid Chief United States District Judge

         Now before the Court is Defendant Travis Tuggle's Motion to Suppress (Doc. 50), and the United States' Response (Doc. 51). For the reasons set forth below, the Defendant's Motion (Doc. 50) is DENIED.


         Defendant Travis Tuggle was indicted on August 1, 2017 in a two-count superseding indictment. Count 1 charges Defendant with conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 846 and 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)(A). Doc. 41. Count II charges the Defendant with maintaining a drug-involved premises in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 856. Id. On July 6, 2018, the Defendant filed the present Motion to Suppress, arguing that evidence obtained from pole camera footage outside his residence constituted an impermissible warrantless search and should be suppressed. Doc. 50. Currently, the trial is scheduled for September 10, 2018.

         “Operation Frozen Tundra” was an expansive investigation of a large-scale drug trafficking network active in several central Illinois counties, which took place from late 2013 to early 2016. Doc. 51, at 4. This investigation was approved as a “OCDETF” case, meaning that multiple federal agencies were cooperating and the overall drug network involved large-scale trafficking and out-of-state suppliers. Id. Through the course of the investigation, the Government began to focus their attention on the Defendant and his accused co-conspirators. Id. at 1.

         During the investigation, the Defendant maintained a residence at 709 North 9th Street, in Mattoon, Illinois. Doc. 50. Many customers and co-conspirators of the supposed drug trafficking ring were believed to live nearby the Defendant's residence. Doc. 51, at 2. This neighborhood was made up of frequently untraveled roads, and made physical surveillance difficult for investigators. Id. While the Government investigated the suspected offenders, they maintained three pole cameras on public property in the surrounding area of Defendant's residence. Id. Two of the three cameras were placed on a telephone pole in an alley between Dewitt and Piatt Avenues, just east of 9th Street and immediately next to the Defendant's residence. Id. These two cameras were placed on the same pole and shared a view of the Defendant's driveway and the front of his residence. Id. Defendant's driveway takes up the majority of the front yard. Id. at 6. The third camera was placed approximately one block south of the other cameras, in the 600 block of North 9th Street, which could also view the Defendant's residence but was primarily used to surveil co-defendant Joshua Vaultonburg's shed. Doc. 51, at 2.

         Agents could remotely operate the cameras to zoom, pan, and tilt. Id. The cameras were equipped with rudimentary lighting technology to minimally assist the cameras' operation at night. Id. The cameras could not record audio, nor did they have infrared or any capabilities to view or capture anything inside the Defendant's residence that he did not expose to the public. Id. During the investigation, a few cameras intermittently stopped functioning and were replaced by identical models in the same locations. Id. at 3. The surveillance footage was viewable in real time from the East Central Illinois Task Force's office in Mattoon and the data was stored on a server at the FBI's Springfield office. Id.

         The pole cameras could only view the exterior of the Defendant's residence and the surrounding area of the house. Id. The Defendant's residence is located in a populated residential area and had no fence, wall, or other object that would obstruct the view of a passerby. Id. The pole cameras recorded roughly 100 instances believed to be the Defendant meeting with various couriers and suppliers. Id. Those individuals would park in the Defendant's driveway then often carry items such as tires, boxes, and bags into the Defendant's residence. Id. Those individuals would then leave with only the rims of tires, smaller sacks, and sometimes nothing at all. Id. The cameras further captured the Defendant carrying items across the street to co-defendant Josh Vaultonburg's shed. Id. at 4. Various witnesses have uniformly corroborated that the cameras captured couriers bringing the Defendant's shipments of methamphetamine and once they left, the Defendant's distributors would arrive to pay and pick up their batch of methamphetamine. Id. The pole cameras operated, in some fashion or another, from August 21, 2014, to March 2, 2016.[1] Id. The pole cameras captured footage of the Defendant's residence for approximately 18 months. Id. The lengthy nature of the investigation was largely attributed to the size and scope of the network, which extended well beyond Defendant and his particular conspiracy. Id. The Government never sought or received a warrant for the pole cameras. Doc. 50.


         The Fourth Amendment provides in part, that the people have a right to be “secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.” U.S. v. Jones, 132 S.Ct. 945, 949 (2012). “[T]he ultimate touchstone of the Fourth Amendment is ‘reasonableness.'” Riley v. California, 134 S.Ct. 2473, 2482 (2014). “A Fourth Amendment search occurs when the government violates a subjective expectation of privacy that society recognizes as reasonable.” Kyllo v. Unites States, 533 U.S. 27, 33 (2001). Furthermore, the Fourth Amendment protects people, not places. Katz v. United States, 389 U.S. 247, 351 (1967). What a person exposes to the public is not private, even in his home or office, but what he seeks to preserve as private, even in a public area, may be constitutionally protected. Id.


         Defendant argues in his Motion to Suppress that the Government violated his reasonable expectation of privacy secured by the Fourth Amendment when it conducted warrantless surveillance of his residence with pole cameras for 18 months. Doc. 50. The Government responds that Defendant did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the activities recorded by the pole cameras, and the length of the surveillance does not alter this analysis. Doc. 51.

         1. Reasonable Expectation of Privacy

         “The Fourth Amendment protects the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.” Carpenter v. United States, 138 S.Ct. 2206, 2213 (2018) (internal quotation omitted). Although much of the early Fourth Amendment jurisprudence regarding searches tied the doctrine to “common-law trespass, ” the Supreme Court has more recently recognized that Fourth Amendment “protects people, not places”; thus, violations may occur even where the Government does not physically intrude on a constitutionally protected area. Id. (citing United States v. Jones, 565 U.S. 400, 405, 406, n. 3 (2012), Katz v. United States, 389 U.S. 347, 351 (1967)); see also Kyllo v. United States, 533 U.S. ...

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