1.On January 16, 1992, two agents from the United States Department of the Interior, Elliott and Dan Haas used a thermal imaging device to scan the home of Danny Lee Kyllo of Florence, OR. The device was known specifically as an Agema Thermovision 210 imager, which detected various levels of radiating heat. The two agents had suspected Kyllo of growing marijuana in his portion of the triplex he lived in due to information they had received from neighbors. At 3:20 am the men took several minutes and used the thermal imaging device to determine that there were unusually high temperatures radiating from Kyllo’s garage, thought to be the location of the growing lamps used for the marijuana growth. This information, along with the tips from neighbors, and electric power readings allowed federal agents to obtain a search warrant and arrest Danny Kyllo.
2.After being arrested Kyllo was charged with manufacturing marijuana. Kyllo moved to suppress the evidence obtained against him on the grounds that the use of the imaging device constituted an illegal search and that authorities had misled the judge who issued the warrant. His motion to suppress was denied and he was ultimately found guilty. Kyllo then appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court on the grounds that the actions taken by the federal agents had actually constituted a pre-warrant search and violated his Fourth Amendment right. At the Ninth Circuit Court the decision of the lower courts was upheld. Kyllo then went on to petition a writ of certiorari to the Supreme Court, which ultimately decided to hear his case. In a 5-4 decision, the Justices found that the use of the thermal imaging device on Danny Kyllo’s home constituted a search, and had violated his Fourth Amendment right. The Supreme Court then dropped the original charge against Kyllo.
3. Privacy and the Fourth Amendment are the issues that are addressed on appeal. Kyllo’s privacy was violated because the police wouldn’t have been able to see the heat had they not used the thermal-imaging device to detect thermal heat associated with growing marijuana. The technology used to detect to detect the high-intensity lamps was able to put parts of the home into view that were once private.
4.Danny Lee Kyllo won the case because the court was violating his privacy by using the thermal imaging devices. The police would have required a warrant to go into the house before using the thermal imaging devices.
5. In the opinion for the majority of the Court, Justice Scalia presented the following rational for reversing the lower courts ruling. In a previous case the Court had ruled that a microphone placed on the outside of a phone booth violated the Fourth Amendment. This ruling produced the Katz test. The Katz test asks the following question. “Does the individual have an expectation of privacy that is accepted as reasonable?” The Court ruled that the use of a thermal imager to view the heat coming off the walls is a violation of the Katz test. Another rational of the court is that while outside walls of a residence are in plain view, use of technology that is not in common use to view what the human eye cannot see, is a violation of the Fourth Amendment.
The dissenting opinion, written by Justice Stevens, presented the following rational to agree with the lower courts ruling. The rational is that while the use of the thermal imager is questionable, the walls were in public view and therefore, there was no expectation of privacy. The dissenting opinion makes a distinction between “off the wall” and “through the wall”. Off the wall is allowed while through the wall is not. The opinion of Justice Scalia is that this distinction is too fine for a police officer to make.
6.This case mainly deals with the interpretation of our Constitution’s Fourth Amendment, which protects us from unlawful search and seizures. What we can learn from this case are: the differences in court systems, the elements that comprise the Fourth Amendment, and the controversies surrounding it. The text relevant to this case can be found within the first six chapters of our textbook, with an emphasis on Chapter 6 “Criminal Law and Business”.
Understanding the difference between state and federal courts is important. First off, we know that this case is a matter of the federal courts for two main reasons; (1) the original offense of manufacturing marijuana is an offense against the laws of the United States, making it a federal crime and (2) by statute the district courts have original jurisdiction to try tort cases involving citizens who suffer damages caused by officers or agents of the federal government. Because agents of the federal government offended Mr. Kyllo’s constitutional right, this was indeed under federal jurisdiction. Therefore, this case is decided using federal substantive law.
The Fourth Amendment is one of the most important constitutional protections; however, several procedural issues may arise. As seen in this case, the validity of the search warrant was questioned as well as the extent of the protection afforded. A search may be illegal even if a search warrant was issued; probable cause is needed in order to attain the proper search warrant. As technology changes, the protection of the IV Amendment narrows, thus causing ambiguity in the word “search”. Fortunately, the exclusionary rule was created to deal with evidence illegally obtained or improperly issued warrants. When this happens, a defendant can request a motion to suppress the evidence. In our case the incriminating evidence was illegally obtained through thermal imaging, therefore that evidence along with any information gained following it should not be used to convict Mr. Kyllo.
7. As a group we agree with the decision of the court mainly because it sets a firm standard, defining the use of technology in lawful searches.