476 U.S. 207 (1986)
Statement of the Case:
The State is prosecuting marijuana-grower, Ciraolo, for growing marijuana, but obtained the proof needed for probable cause from flying a plane over his backyard to see the marijuana growing without a search warrant.
-Cops received an anonymous tip that D was growing weed in his backyard. D had a 10 foot fence surrounding his yard.
-Cops flew a plane in public airspace over D's house and photographed his weed.
-They also signed affidavits about what they saw. This was used to get a search warrant which allowed them to find 73 marijuana plants.
Whether a person has a reasonable expectation of privacy when he puts up a fence around his yard, but police observe, with the naked eye, that he is committing illegal acts in his backyard from a low-flying airplane.
-A person does not have a reasonable expectation of privacy when he puts up a fence around his yard when police are able to observe, with the naked eye, that he is committing illegal acts in his backyard from a low-flying airplane.
PROCEDURAL HISTORY:-Lower courts ruled that this was an unreasonable search and seizure for the D.
-Judgment reversed for State.
- The D tried to keep his actions private, but it is disputable whether this included from the sky, since his fence did not have a roof, BUT REGARDLESS,
- “whether the government’s intrusion infringes upon the personal and societal values protected by the 4th Amendment.”
- Area within the property of the D is not automatically barred from police observation.
- Even if he has taken some kind of measure to stop vision of the property, it is not off limits if it is freely visible.
- In this case, any member of the public flying in the airspace, who glanced down, could have seen everything the officers observed by the naked eye.
- Therefore, his expectation of privacy is unreasonable.
- The majority depends on the idea that airspace is public property, so since you can see the drugs from public property, with the naked eye, that is fair game.
- Curtilage has been considered part of the home itself, and thus should be considered so as to be protected more carefully than other pieces of property.
- The reasonable risk to privacy from a commercial or recreational aircraft is almost nonexistent, and but for the actions of police trying to observe, this observation would not have been made.
- Physical trespass did not occur, but it was still a search without a warrant.
- No reasonable expectation of privacy attaches to open fields.
- Common law distinguishes curtilage from open fields, but the line between the two is minimal.
Curtilage (land considered part of the home) is defined by:
- area’s proximity to the home,
- the existence of an enclosure around the area,
- the nature of the use to which the area is put,
- the precautions taken to exclude others from the area.
Link to full case: http://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?case=13894501388713609672&hl=en&as_sdt=2&as_vis=1&oi=scholarr