Judge Rules Against Wardens Who Placed Trailcams on Private Property Without a Warrant

A pair of Tennessee property owners are suing the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency’s (TWRA) for what they are calling illegal surveillance. Back in April published a more detailed synopsis of the case, which you can read HERE.

According to the lawsuit, the TWRA climbed fences and walked past no trespassing signs to place trail cameras on private property to observes hunting activities. The TWRA maintains the practice is legal and does not infringe on fourth amendment rights due to what is called the “Open Fields” doctrine.

Hunter Hollingsworth and Terry Rainwaters of Camden, TN, on Tuesday, March 31, 2020. (Photography by Nathan Morgan for the Institute of Justice)

The open field doctrine stems from a 1929 Supreme Court ruling that was reconfirmed in 1984 that that property owners have no “reasonable expectation of privacy” on any private lands the Court deems to be an “open field.”

The TWRA attempted to get the lawsuit thrown out based on this doctrine, but on 17 August, 2020, Benton County Circuit Court Judge Charles McGinley denied that motion and is allowing the suit to move forward.

The Institute for Justice a private property advocacy firm has teamed up with the landowners and is helping them with the lawsuit.

Hunter Hollingsworth and Terry Rainwaters of Camden, TN, on Tuesday, March 31, 2020. (Photography by Nathan Morgan for the Institute of Justice)

“Private land is not open to public officers,” said IJ Attorney Joshua Windham. “We look forward to Tennessee’s courts declaring once and for all that the Tennessee Constitution does not allow the government to conduct warrantless surveillance of private property.”

As this case moves forward we will keep you updated.