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Name: People v. Cartwright (2024) 99 Cal.App.5th 98
Case #: D080606
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 1
Opinion Date: 01/25/2024

Trial court did not err in denying defendant’s motion to suppress video footage from the City of San Diego’s streetlight camera program and evidence derived from that footage. As part of its “City IQ” streetlight program, the City of San Diego maintains fixed cameras throughout the city that capture only the public right of way. Defendant was arrested in connection with a robbery and murder at a flooring store after video footage from the City’s cameras revealed defendant’s gold GMC Yukon arriving and departing the area on the day of the incident. Defendant’s motion to suppress the camera footage was denied. On appeal, he argued the police conducted a warrantless search when they accessed the camera footage and, but for this improper search, they would not have learned his identity. Held: Affirmed. The court concluded that defendant had no objectively reasonable expectation of privacy when he used the public streets and sidewalks downtown in a manner readily observable to passersby. Therefore, the police did not conduct a “search” when they accessed footage from the City’s streetlight cameras, and there was no violation of the Fourth Amendment. The court distinguished Carpenter v. United States (2018) 138 S.Ct. 2206, on which defendant relied. Carpenter held that the government’s acquisition of cell-site records constituted a “search” under the Fourth Amendment, but specifically indicated that its holding did not extend to “conventional surveillance techniques and tools, such as security cameras.” Further, unlike in Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle v. Balt. Police Dep’t (4th Cir. 2021) 2 F.4th 330, where the combination of traditional surveillance data and aerial photographs allowed police to effectively track a person’s movement throughout the city retroactively over a 45-day period, here the City’s camera program stands alone. By its very nature and limitations, it does not reveal transit patterns. The information the cameras capture is all information voluntarily conveyed to anyone in a public space who cares to look—something any police officer could have done without a warrant.

The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: