Ruling Curbs Use of Heat-Seeking Cameras

Ruling Curbs Use of Heat-Seeking Cameras
Posted by CN Staff on January 28, 2003 at 07:46:21 PT
By Tracey Tyler, Legal Affairs Reporter
Source: Toronto Star 
The Ontario Court of Appeal has effectively grounded police aircraft equipped with heat-seeking cameras, saying they can no longer fly over private residences taking pictures unless officers obtain a warrant.A homeowner's right to privacy extends to the heat generated inside a home and reflected on the outside, a three-judge panel said yesterday.
And the use of Forward Looking Infrared (FLIR) cameras to detect heat emanating from a home amounts to a search, which requires judicial authorization, the court said."I am satisfied that the FLIR technology discloses more information about what goes on inside a house than is detectable by normal observation or surveillance," Madam Justice Rosalie Abella wrote for the court, adding that "some perfectly innocent" activities, such as taking a bath or using lights at unusual hours, can create the kind of heat emanations picked up by infrared aircraft cameras used in drug investigations.The court acquitted Walter Tessling of Kingsville, Ont., near Windsor, of charges of possessing firearms and marijuana seized after an RCMP plane equipped with a FLIR camera flew over his home in May of 1999, taking pictures of the thermal energy radiating from the building.In an interview yesterday, Frank Miller, Tessling's lawyer, said the case isn't about "guilty people hiding things," it's about protecting people "so they don't have this feeling Big Brother is watching" as they go about their lives.Letting police use "technological tricks" to encroach on a homeowner's privacy can have a chilling effect on the use of anything from a pottery kiln to a hot tub, he said.Knowing police are flying overhead taking pictures and could use your electrical consumption as an excuse for questioning your neighbours is enough to put a damper on anyone's activities, Miller added.In its decision, the court is saying "Look, that kind of spy technology is going to have to be looked at very carefully," he said.Planes equipped with FLIR cameras are used "an awful lot" for drug investigations in the United States but far less so in Canada, party because of the cost, Miller added. However, it's something police are likely to push for more of, he said.In its decision yesterday, the appeal court excluded "a large quantity" of marijuana and weapons discovered in Tessling's home because they were seized as a result of an illegal search in which the FLIR camera played a central role. The operating theory behind the technology is that while heat usually emanates evenly from a building, the lights used in marijuana growing operations give off an unusual amount of heat and an area of intense heat might signal a marijuana-growing operation, Abella said. "In my view, there is an important distinction between observations that are made by the naked eye or even by the use of enhanced aids, such as binoculars, which are in common use, and observations which are the product of technology," she said yesterday."A member of the public can walk by a house and observe the snow melting on the roof, or look at the house with binoculars, or see steam rising from the vents.""Without FLIR technology, however, that person cannot know that it is hotter than other houses in the area or that one room in particular reveals a very high energy consumption," she said, writing for Associate Chief Justice Dennis O'Connor and Justice Robert Sharpe.Note: Police aircraft now need warrant Appeal court acquits man of charges.Source: Toronto Star (CN ON)Author: Tracey Tyler, Legal Affairs ReporterPublished: January 28, 2003Copyright: 2003 The Toronto Star Contact: lettertoed Website: Related Articles & Web Site:Cannabis News Canadian Links Rejects Infra-Red Drug Search for Indoor Pot Farms? Vision - Time Magazine
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Comment #3 posted by delariand on January 28, 2003 at 10:22:00 PT
Just a thought...
What if a court ruled the police couldn't use the photons emanating from inside your house, unless they had a warrant? That'd be interesting...
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Comment #2 posted by PAULPETERSON on January 28, 2003 at 08:45:13 PT
Take heart, all! There is a strong trend developing in this continent. Judges are starting to learn again how to interpret the constitutional freedoms appropriately. Search and seizure, First Amendment freedoms, Due Process rights, all are getting the attention they deserve.It is my theory that the "war on terror" has become a "virus" that has triggered the immune system of the courts. When 9/11 came around, I was worried that judges would become more ruthless about all supposed "crimes" but just the opposite has happened. When you compare "terrorist" crimes to non-violent mere "possession" crimes, the war on drugs becomes almost laughable.Judges are seeing this more clearly than those narcocrats in Washington, of course.It appears that the bush's attempts to smash "terror" and "drugs" together have backfired, and good at that!Keep the faith. This war is progressing quickly. PAUL PETERSON, your correspondent in war torn Illinois.
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Comment #1 posted by TroutMask on January 28, 2003 at 07:52:38 PT
Another blow to marijuana prohibition
The use of FLIR in Canada was one of the last few things that bothered me in comparing MJ prohibition in Canada vs. the US. It was ironic that the US had struck down FLIR as unconstitutional before Canada did. But now Canada has struck it down as well.If the task of finding and destroying indoor marijuana grows in Canada was previously daunting, it has now become much more so.The war against marijuana in Canada is won by us. Give it up, prohibs.-TM
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