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Video Surveillance

Video surveillance may be conducted for investigative reasons for criminal matters. Because it has been found that video surveillance is covered under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, an individual has an expectation of privacy that may not be violated.

Search Warrant

In federal cases and in most state jurisdictions a search warrant requesting permission to conduct video surveillance requires more than a showing that probable cause exists. The party requesting the search warrant must:


  • Show other alternative surveillance methods had been tried and failed.

  • Provide a statement of steps taken to assure that the surveillance will be minimized to effectuate the underlying purpose of the surveillance.

  • Provide a statement articulating the duration of the video surveillance.

  • Provide the names of individuals to be under surveillance.

State and Federal Jurisdictions

Different jurisdictions have different requirements with respect to the types of video surveillance permitted and the duration. Some jurisdictions only require that the requesting party show probable cause and one of the other requirements listed above. However, other jurisdictions require extensive information prior to issuing a video surveillance warrant. The reason why some jurisdictions may require more proof before issuing a video surveillance warrant is because the Fourth Amendment of the individual under surveillance is involved.

The United States Department of Justice requires that the investigative agency seeking to conduct video surveillance on a suspect obtain approval from a Department official prior to commencing such surveillance.

Video Surveillance and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act

Video surveillance warrants are now permitted under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The Federal Bureau of Investigation has requested 85% more surveillance warrants from the time that the Act was passed. However, it is very difficult for the Department of Justice to process all of the requests for video surveillance or other types of permissible surveillance in a timely manner. Unfortunately due to the delays in obtaining a warrant from the Department of Justice surveillance opportunities may be lost or severely hindered.

Copyright 2013 LexisNexis, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc.