Matthew Prensky
Matthew Prensky · February 14, 2024

ARLINGTON, Va.—Today, DeKalb County leaders amended an ordinance that gave police the power to seize surveillance footage from business owners without a warrant. DeKalb County’s revisions come after the Institute for Justice (IJ) sent a letter to county leaders demanding they repeal their unconstitutional ordinance. 

DeKalb County’s Board of Commissioners passed an ordinance in December 2022 requiring all gas stations and convenience stores in the county to install security camera systems that meet a list of specific requirements. Tucked into the ordinance was a requirement that businesses make footage available to police no later than 72 hours after being requested, regardless of whether police had a warrant. Failure to comply with any section of the ordinance, including turning over video footage, could result in business owners being fined or sentenced to jailtime. 

In October 2023, IJ warned DeKalb County officials that their ordinance was a gross violation of the U.S. Constitution’s protections against unreasonable searches and seizures. 

“We’re pleased that DeKalb County took our advice and fixed its unconstitutional law instead of forcing small business owners to litigate the issue in court,” said Jared McClain, an attorney at IJ. “The Fourth Amendment strikes a balance between public safety and the right to privacy. Local governments can’t just ignore the Constitution’s warrant requirement.” 

As part of its Project on the Fourth Amendment, IJ has fought against various laws that permit government officials to conduct unreasonable searches and seizures. We are currently challenging laws in Pennsylvania and Tennessee that allow law enforcement to enter private property to conduct searches without consent, and in New Jersey where law enforcement could use a child’s blood, collected at birth to test for diseases, to help identify suspects in criminal investigations, all without the parents’ knowledge or consent.