CA6: Camera in fake smoke detector outside def’s door in apt building hallway violated no REP

Defendant had no reasonable expectation of privacy in images captured by a camera warrantlessly placed in a fake smoke detector on the ceiling of his apartment building hallway right outside his door. United States v. Trice, 2020 U.S. App. LEXIS 22738 (6th Cir. July 21, 2020):

Raheim Trice entered a conditional guilty plea to one count of possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute …. He conditioned his plea on this appeal challenging the warrant issued to search his apartment. Law enforcement officers entered the common area of his apartment building and placed a camera disguised as a smoke detector on the wall across the hallway from the front door of his unit. The camera was equipped with a motion detector and set to activate whenever the door to his apartment opened. The camera made several videos of Trice entering and exiting, and this information was used in an affidavit in support of the search warrant. Law enforcement executed the warrant and seized drugs and other paraphernalia consistent with distribution. Trice contends that the use of the camera violated his Fourth Amendment rights.

We disagree because Trice’s arguments are squarely foreclosed by two lines of authority from this court. The first makes clear that he had no reasonable expectation of privacy in the apartment’s unlocked common hallway where the camera recorded the footage. The second teaches that law enforcement may use video to record what police could have seen from a publicly accessible location. Although the camera was placed inside an apartment building rather than on a utility pole (as is more typical), we are compelled by this authority to allow use of the video. The camera captured nothing beyond the fact of Trice’s entry and exit into the apartment and did not provide law enforcement any information they could not have learned through ordinary visual surveillance. We AFFIRM.

Does this bother normal sensibilites of privacy?

Update: WKZO: Secret camera used in drug bust upheld in court by Will Kriss

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