Supreme Court Rules Thermal Imaging Is a Search

Supreme Court Rules Thermal Imaging Is a Search
Posted by FoM on June 11, 2001 at 08:46:31 PT
By James Vicini
Source: Reuters
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Monday that thermal imaging to record the amount of heat emanating from a house, a police practice often used to help detect illegal drugs, represented a search covered by constitutional privacy protections.The court's 5-4 ruling was a setback for the U.S. Justice Department , which argued the use of a thermal imager by law enforcement officers to detect the heat emitted from a house was not a search and was not covered by the privacy protections.
Justice Antonin Scalia said for the court majority that when the government uses a device not in general public use to explore the details of a private home that would previously been unknowable without physical intrusion, the surveillance is a search and requires a warrant.He said use of the device, aimed at a private home from a public street to detect, constituted a search.To withdraw such a minimum expectation of privacy against unreasonable searches would permit ``police technology to erode the privacy'' guaranteed by the Constitution, Scalia said.Scalia rejected the Justice Department's argument that the thermal imaging was constitutionally allowed because it did not detect ``intimate details.''The case began with an investigation by William Elliott, an agent of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management , into a possible conspiracy to grow marijuana in Oregon.Suspecting that Danny Kyllo might be involved, the agent examined Kyllo's utility records and found he used an abnormally high amount of electricity -- which could suggest the use of intensity lights to grow marijuana in his house.Elliott then used a thermal imaging device from a parked car on a public street and found that unusually high levels of heat were coming from the roof of Kyllo's garage and one wall of his house. Kyllo's house emitted more heat than the neighboring houses.Only later did Elliott get a court warrant authorizing a search of the house, where agents discovered an indoor marijuana-growing operation.Kyllo pleaded guilty but moved to suppress the evidence recovered from the search of his residence, arguing that the thermal imaging device constituted an impermissible search.A U.S. appeals court ruled that use of the imager did not constitute a search.Scalia said the appeals court was wrong. He said the information obtained by the thermal imager in this case was the product of a search.Dissenting were Chief Justice William Rehnquist and Justices John Paul Stevens , Sandra Day O'Connor and Anthony Kennedy . Source: ReutersAuthor: James ViciniPublished: Monday June 11, 2001Copyright: 2001 ReutersRelated Articles:High-Tech Frisk Flyover Sufficient for Search Warrant Police: Big Brother with a Badge? Allows Evidence from Thermal Imaging Device 
Home Comment Email Register Recent Comments Help

Comment #7 posted by BGreen on July 24, 2002 at 00:40:05 PT
It's still a search
A search warrant is needed for them to legally look for hot spots, and the information they gather can be used to get another search warrant to enter the house. You notice I mentioned the word "legally."I'd bet every dollar I have that these evil people drive around pointing it at houses, and then, if they see something, try to find some other probable cause (i.e. make stuff up) to get a search warrant.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #6 posted by FoM on July 23, 2002 at 22:04:58 PT
Is This Legal Now?
TRF Police Dept. finds many uses for thermal imaging equipment
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #5 posted by classc on June 11, 2002 at 10:42:29 PT:
He should have been using some of these
!!!!Evade Thermal imaging cameras!
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #4 posted by m segesta on June 11, 2001 at 12:12:17 PT
Surprised when I do the Con Law 101 Head Count....
One of the first things they teach you about in your first year law school Con Law course -- other than the rather banal principles of justiciability and "ripeness" -- is that most Supreme Court decisions (indeed, all that are non-unanimous and especialy those that are close) must, at one point or another, be evaluated by "counting the heads" of which justices voted in the majority or minority, and why. Such counting is about the only way to predict how the court might approach any future or pending question involving similar or related legal themes. The head count here surprised me, even though I have always allowed that the right end of the bench probably values privacy a bit more these days than it has in the past, and the left end currently holds privacy in a lower regard than it has historically (though the entire bench displays nothing resembling the proper respect privacy is due).Imagine, Scalia thinkin' you have greater privacy to grow pot than Justice John Puff-Daddy (Diddy?) Stevens or Sandra "Sunshine" Smoking O'Connor? I have to think about this.....or maybe it's just that Antonin got TOO HIGH and has been peronally feelin' a bit of paranoia -- a known delusion common amongst evil marijuana addicts.:)Y'all take care now....M
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #3 posted by Ethan Russo, MD on June 11, 2001 at 09:45:43 PT:
Good News/Bad News
I am glad this went our way, but 5-4? What about all the freedoms lost heretofor? We need new laws to bolster the misuse of the Constitution.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #2 posted by dddd on June 11, 2001 at 09:14:52 PT
Notice how this ruling barely made could have easilygone the other way.These pompous bastards are just trying to save face for allthe damage they have previously allowed to the Constitution!I'm sorry,,,but I have trouble applauding this is littlemore than a meager bit of fluff when compared to the past decisions.I'd rather have an infrared sensor aimed at my house,than have my car searched for not wearing a seat belt!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!d!d!!d!!!disgusted!
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #1 posted by TroutMask on June 11, 2001 at 08:49:52 PT
This news is way too good for a Monday!!! Can't go out and celebrate on a "school night".
[ Post Comment ]

Post Comment