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The Future Of The Fourth Amendment Concerning Unmanned Aircraft

2889 words - 12 pages

Americans’ privacy with drones.
Unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) popularly known as "drones" have a long history dating back to World War I as remote-controlled aerial targets according to Howeth (1963). However, their current role in surveillance is much shorter. Unmanned aircraft are predominantly used by the military in the roles of surveillance and precision strikes. This relationship with the military has cast a dark cloud over the public perception of unmanned aircraft use in the United States. Concurrently, advancements within the military UAS programs and the signing of FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, has facilitated the necessity to formulate a plan to regulate unmanned ...view middle of the document...

This study will address the major concern voiced by the public's concern regarding law enforcement using unmanned aircraft for tracking persons and collecting evidence. Federal and state laws will be examined in order to determine if current laws are adequate in facilitating the use of unmanned aircraft while preserving the fourth Amendment. The dependent variable, the statues of privacy afforded by the Fourth Amendment as UAS are continually employed into everyday life. It will be tested by the independent variables, assessing how manned and unmanned surveillance match up and how it is viewed by the Supreme Court also evaluating introduction of laws and legislation governing unmanned aircraft how it effects the Fourth Amendment. It must be determined how unmanned aircraft are to be governed before they are used, because their use and any data obtain by unmanned aircraft could be opposed in court. Which leads to, what are the current laws governing the use of unmanned aircraft by law enforcement agencies?
How the Fourth Amendment stands against UAS.
State v. Brossart is the first known case involving evidence from an unmanned aircraft. Brossart's attorney Bruce Quick condemned his arrest because the Grand Forks police used a Department of Homeland Security Predator UAS to survey the Brossart property to locate the three sons and ensure they were unarmed before police made the arrest. The state of North Dakota presented a DVD containing the recorded video of the Brossart surveillance and arrest of the three sons. The judge ruled the evidence was permissible and relevant to the case, also ruling it was not a violation of the Fourth Amendment even though it was collected without a warrant. The Brossart case is the gateway to law enforcement to utilize UAS for surveillance involving criminal investigations.
Similarly, Molko's (2013) research investigated how similar aerial platforms conducting the same monitoring have held up in court. In the case California v. Ciraolo, the police used an aircraft flying at 1000 feet to observe the backyard of a residence. The court found that it was not a violation of the Fourth Amendment, even though it was within the curtilage of the house. The court ruled that because regular commercial flights traveled over the property there was no reasonable expectation of privacy from the airspace.
On the same day, the Supreme Court decided another aerial surveillance case involving the Dow Chemical Co. v. United States. The Dow case involved the monitoring of open areas using a precision aerial mapping camera. The court ruled the evidence permissible, even though the Dow company had taken security measures to ensure the property could not be from outside. According to the Supreme Court, "open field" is not covered under the Fourth Amendment, as regular aerial flights transition through the area.
Another case Florida v. Riley, the court, examined similar data where a police helicopter hovered at 400 feet and observing a...

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