Spy in the Sky Challenges Our Fourth Amendment

by | Apr 12, 2021 |

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

The government use of drones has become another front in the war on privacy. A Michigan Court of Appeals case asks the question of whether a drone search is reasonable or not.

In 2008, Long Lake Township filed a zoning complaint against Todd and Heather Maxon. An agreement was entered in to settle the complaint. Then, in 2018 the township filed a civil action, claiming that the defendants had significantly increased the scope of the junk cars and other junk material being kept on their property,” which constitut[ed] an illegal salvage or junkyard.” As proof, the township provided aerial photographs taken by a drone. The Maxons moved to suppress the aerial photographs and all evidence obtained by [p]laintiff from its illegal search of their property.” They argued that their property’s aerial surveillance was an unlawful search in violation of the Fourth Amendment. The township argued that using a drone to photograph the Maxons property was not a violation of the Fourth Amendment since the property was visible from above.

The trial court denied the Maxons motion to suppress the aerial photographs. They based their decision on the cases Florida v Riley, which found that the visual observation of the defendants premises from a helicopter did not constitute a search under the Fourth Amendment.” This led to the Maxons appealing the trial courts decision, which brings us to the case Im reviewing today.

In general, courts do not consider something a search if the item observed was in plain view, the idea being that if you expected something to be private, you would not have put it where it was publicly visible. In the case California v Ciraolo, the Supreme Court found that observing someones property from an aircraft at 1,000 feet did not violate the Fourth Amendment since the aircraft was operating in publicly accessible airspace. A few years later, the court found in the Florida v Riley mentioned above that observations from a helicopter flying at 400 feet also did not violate the Fourth Amendment. These cases are the basis by which the Michigan Court of Appeals made its decision.

Opinion

In a 2-1 decision, the Michigan Court of Appeals found that, because the Maxons had taken steps to prevent observation from the ground, they expected privacy, at least against casual observation. The court found that:

We conclude that; much like the infrared imaging device discussed in Kyllo; low-altitude, unmanned, specifically-targeted drone surveillance of a private individuals property is qualitatively different from the kinds of human-operated aircraft overflights permitted by Ciraolo and Riley. We conclude that drone surveillance of this nature intrudes into personsreasonable expectations of privacy. Hence, such surveillance implicates the Fourth Amendment and is illegal without a warrant or a traditional exception to the warrant requirement.

Long Lake Township v. Todd Maxon and Heather Maxon

In the Kyllo case mentioned, police used an infrared imaging device to scan the building for heat that emanates from the high-intensity lights used in indoor marijuana grow houses. The Supreme Court held that since these imaging devices were not generally available to the public, using them constituted an illegal search. Apparently, in this court’s eyes, using an unmanned drone to surveil private property is different from using a manned aircraft. The court found that while a hovering helicopter does not violate a persons privacy, a drone does. Karen M. Fort Hood dissented from the courts opinion. She claims that using a drone is indistinguishable from that of a helicopter when it comes to the Fourth Amendment. So who is right, the majority of the court or the lone dissenter?

Conclusion

While I believe the majority came to the right decision, I also agree with the dissent that the difference between using a drone or a helicopter may make little difference in a question of privacy. While a helicopter is quite noisy, I doubt anyone would run outside to cover up their backyard should they hear one approach. In this case, I believe both the majority and the dissent miss a critical point. The question that did not appear to be considered by the court was the Fourth Amendment’s intent.

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated,

U.S. Constitution, Amendment IV

The Fourth Amendment does not protect us from unreasonable observation but from unreasonable searches.

To look over or through for the purpose of finding something; to explore; to examine by inspection; as, to search the house for a book; to search the wood for a thief.

Search – Websters 1828 Dictionary

Courts have conflated the Constitutions protection against unreasonable searches into a right to privacy. While there is an element of privacy involved, the Fourth Amendment intends to protect us from snooping government officials, not from any specific method of that snooping.

If a law enforcement officer sees something on your porch while driving through the neighborhood, we wouldnt consider that a search. Similarly, if someone in a police helicopter observes something in your back yard, that is not a search. If, however, an officer parks outside your home or hovers around your property in a helicopter for the purpose of finding something, then they are searching. And unless they have a warrant or a reasonable exigent circumstance, that is a violation of the Fourth Amendment.

If the Long Lake Township had probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, that the Maxons were violating the law, then all they had to do was get a warrant, and the drone surveillance would have been reasonable. Whether the township did not get a warrant because they didnt have probable cause or because they were just too lazy to bother with it is a discussion for another day.

While I am happy for the Maxons, I am concerned by the Fourth Amendment’s ongoing abuse. By focusing on privacy rather than searches, the courts have twisted themselves, and by extension, everyone else, into knots with questions of where and when someone has an expectation of privacy. If those on the court would use the language of the Constitution and decide cases based on the reasonableness of the search, rather than the method used, not only would our rights be better protected, but we would have fewer twisted court opinions to deal with.

Paul Engel

Author and speaker Paul Engel has spent more than 20 years studying and teaching about both the Bible and the U.S. Constitution. That experience helps Paul explain difficult concepts in a way most people can understand. As one manager described, “Paul can take the most complex idea and explain it in a way my grandmother can understand.” Freely admitting that he “learned more about our Constitution from School House Rock (a Saturday morning cartoon) than in 12 years of school,” he says that anyone can be a constitutional scholar. Since 2014 I have been helping everyday Americans read and study the Constitution of their country and teaching the rising generation to be free. Using news and current events as a springboard, I explain the Constitution and encourage others to stand up and secure the blessings of liberty for themselves, their children, and the nation.

Use the code ‘OUTLOUD’ and save 15%
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Disclaimer: The information contained in this website is for educational, general information, and entertainment purposes only and is never intended to constitute medical or legal advice or to replace the personalized care of a primary care practitioner or legal expert.

While we endeavor to keep this information up to date and correct, the information provided by America Out Loud, its website(s), and any properties (including its radio shows and podcasts) makes no representations, or warranties of any kind, expressed, or implied, about the completeness, accuracy, reliability, suitability, or availability with respect to its website(s) or the information, products, services or related graphics and images contained on the website(s) for any purpose.

The opinions expressed on the website(s), and the opinions expressed on the radio shows and podcasts, are the opinions of the show hosts and do not necessarily represent the opinions, beliefs, or policies of anyone or any entity we may endorse. Any reliance you place on such information is therefore strictly at your own risk.

At no time, nor in any event, will we be liable for any loss, or damage, including without limitation, indirect or consequential loss of data or profits arising out of, in an association of, or connection with the use of this website.

Through this website, users can link to other websites that may be listed. Those websites are not under the control of America Out Loud or its brands. We have no control over the nature, content, or availability of those sites. America Out Loud has no control over what the sites do with the information they collect. The inclusion of any links does not necessarily imply a recommendation, nor does it endorse the views expressed with or by them.

Every effort is made to keep the website up and running smoothly. However, America Out Loud takes no responsibility for, nor are we, and will not be liable for being temporarily unavailable due to technical difficulties beyond our control. America Out Loud does not sell, trade, nor market email addresses or other personal data.

American Democracy, The End of An Era

American Democracy, The End of An Era

Communism in America in 2022, at least in its early stage, is following the communist rule-book of social/political upheaval and violence. Communism is gaining control of the American government, the judicial system, and other institutions through leaps and bounds. Yet, it is achieving this through subterfuge. Let us not be deceived by…

The Elimination of Gun Owners is the Goal of Red Flag Laws

The Elimination of Gun Owners is the Goal of Red Flag Laws

Red Flag Laws are a calculated start of a slippery slope to control our young people, eliminate the 2nd amendment and disable Americans from the right to defend themselves. Every totalitarian society started by eliminating the right and/or opportunity for the populace to self-defend. So which is it? Well-intentioned ignorance? Or an insidious plot to change and control our American way of life?

Dr. Peter McCullough Testifies in Texas…”Pandemic Lessons Learned”

Dr. Peter McCullough Testifies in Texas…”Pandemic Lessons Learned”

Even a data-model expert from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center did not consider early treatment in models to predict hospitalization. This was a stunning revelation as modern estimates have early treatment resulting in a 95% reduction in the risk of hospitalization and death. This means any COVID-19 data model is useless unless it considers…

Biden Must Stop Sharing Our Nation’s Intelligence with the World

Biden Must Stop Sharing Our Nation’s Intelligence with the World

Damaging articles on U.S. information-sharing with Ukraine told Russia what we were sharing with Kyiv. While clearly, the administration did not want to escalate the war, sharing information that we planned to contribute over a dozen Polish fighter planes was extremely helpful to Russian strategists. It is a real mystery how this administration could have been so wrong on…

The American Communist Party Must Be Defeated

The American Communist Party Must Be Defeated

Once the world’s preeminent fighting force, our Armed Forces are now seemingly more concerned with teaching members to use the correct pronouns and promoting ‘letters of the alphabet’ to command positions than in protecting America and winning wars. Now we find ourselves under attack from outside our country, as well as from within…

Wind Energy or Blowing Smoke Up Our Arses!

Wind Energy or Blowing Smoke Up Our Arses!

Among the most significant weaknesses of the horizon blotting Chinese windmills from hell are those 120 to 200-foot-long blades and what to do with them when they wear out, break, get dented, or get a bullet hole in them? Every time a blade chops up an eagle or other large bird (what’s the avian death count now, 500,000 birds annually) gets even slightly dented, it needs to…

Recognize the Real Red Flags on the Rights of all Americans

Recognize the Real Red Flags on the Rights of all Americans

Many well-intentioned psychologists and medical doctors suggest that mental illness is a serious problem that can lead to violent acts, particularly depression. Dr. Joseph Mercola, a popular osteopathic physician calls antidepressants the elephant in the room. He rightly states that antidepressants can cause suicidal and homicidal thoughts, agitation, impulsivity, and a…

The Marxist Revolution in California Threatens Its Very Existence

The Marxist Revolution in California Threatens Its Very Existence

The state is tumbling over three critical issues. First, the human-caused climate change fraud promotes the end of life as we know it if we continue to burn fossil fuels and emit life-giving carbon dioxide, the only reason mankind can inhabit Earth. Second, the Critical Race Theory that is turning citizen against citizen as either oppressed or oppressors, and third is the covid China virus that has disrupted all normal life and…

The Warning Signs Make Monkeypox the New SARS-CoV-2

The Warning Signs Make Monkeypox the New SARS-CoV-2

In November 2021, a report was issued by the Nuclear Threat Initiative, which, along with the Munich Security Conference, held a tabletop exercise to consider responses to a fictional monkeypox outbreak that was posited to occur in May 2022. Stretching credulity, fiction has now been replaced by fact as the world experiences a genuine explosion of the monkeypox disease starting on the exact assigned date. Could this exact prediction be one more big coincidence?

Overturning Roe v. Wade Does Not End Abortion; It Returns the Authority to the States

Overturning Roe v. Wade Does Not End Abortion; It Returns the Authority to the States

What can the American people conclude, both from the reactions to the leak of the draft and the anticipated reactions to this opinion? First, we should recognize that there are people in our country for whom the ends justify the means. Some will use lies, intimidation, and violence to get their way. This should be obvious from the hysterical disinformation…

The Buck Stops With Putin, Big Oil, White Supremacists, Trump & Teachers Unions

The Buck Stops With Putin, Big Oil, White Supremacists, Trump & Teachers Unions

Immediately upon taking office, Biden revoked a permit essential for the Keystone XL pipeline to deliver oil from Canada, launched an effort to overturn an oil drilling program in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) in Alaska, and empowered the Department of Interior regulatory efforts to delay drilling permits. Fast forward now to June of this year, and Biden is blaming Big Oil…

Realpolitik: Biden & Muhammad bin Salman

Realpolitik: Biden & Muhammad bin Salman

MBS is telling Biden that when he comes groveling to Saudi Arabia, this ‘pariah’ state is the foremost economic and political power in the Gulf that cannot be either threatened, intimidated, or insulted by the USA. That Biden is dealing with an extremely vital state to America’s interests. To assist Biden’s survival, MBS will most definitely demand that there will be Quid pro Quo such as…

America Out Loud 6 years

Celebrating 6 incredible years fighting to restore liberty and justice to our beloved America.

Your Source for Free Speech, Talk Radio, Podcasts, and News.

 

Here we take on the challenges of our generation so that we can preserve future generations. Please consider making a contribution in the fight for liberty!

iHeartRadio

The APPS are free; the mission is priceless!

Free APP
Healthycell

Podcast Networks

Apple Podcasts
Google Podcasts
Spotify
Pandora
Tunein
iHeart
Stitcher

Subscribe and Listen on Your Favorite APP

Our Columnists and Show Hosts

Truth For Health

Apple Podcasts

COVID Solution Summit

Apple Podcasts

Evacuating Americans & fully-vetted Afghan's at Risk - Help Us!

Apple Podcasts

Empowering and mentoring conservative trailblazers from Generation Z to win!

Apple Podcasts

Turning Point Action is Recruiting Precinct Chairs - Become a Grassroots Warrior Today!

Apple Podcasts

URGENT - KEEP NINE
Please join us to protect the Supreme Court:
Sign the Petition!

Apple Podcasts

The LATINO USA EXIT from the Democrat Party, click for details...

Apple Podcasts

Fighting corporate censorship and ensuring voter integrity...

Apple Podcasts

Support wounded and fallen police officers. The Wounded Blue.

Wounded Blue
Share via
Copy link