Warrantless Drone Surveillance Case Will Be Heard at Michigan Supreme Court

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... the Michigan Supreme Court agreed to decide whether the government can use drones to surveil private property without first acquiring a warrant and then use that evidence in court. For two years, Long Lake Township zoning officials flew a sophisticated drone over Todd and Heather Maxon’s property, taking detailed photographs and videos as part of a zoning dispute. The Maxons, represented by the Institute for Justice (IJ), are asking the court to hold that the government violated their Fourth Amendment rights and can’t use its illegally obtained photos and videos to punish them.

“The government cannot intrude on your home with a drone to surveil you—without a warrant—then use the information it gathered against you in court,” said IJ Attorney Mike Greenberg. “That is precisely the kind of snooping the Fourth Amendment exists to guard against, and we look forward to arguing exactly that to the state supreme court’s justices.”
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In September 2022, the Michigan Court of Appeals decided that even if the drone flights violated the Maxons’ Fourth Amendment rights, the government could still use the evidence obtained from the unconstitutional search in court. According to the court, the Fourth Amendment’s protection doesn’t apply to investigators hunting for zoning code violations. In the court’s view, any evidence the government uncovers can be used against you in civil code-enforcement proceedings, even if the government deliberately violated your rights when uncovering that evidence.
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