Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution is one of the original constitutional amendments, included to the American Bill of Rights, which sounds: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
” US Courts often had to deal with interpretation of the Fourth Amendment in terms of what can be considered a “search and seizure”, what is it “unreasonable”, etc. This paper shall discuss the Supreme Court case “Kyllo v. United States” and the application of the fourth amendment in this case. Backgrounds of the case. In 1992 Danny Kyllo has been suspected in growing marijuana. Federal agents William Elliott and Dan Haas, who were in charge of investigation, used a thermal imaging device to scan Kyllo’s house, because growing marijuana indoors requires using heat lamps.
The thermal imaging test, conducted by Elliott from the car revealed, that the house’s garage has been significantly warmer, then the rest of the house. Using this evidence the agents received a search warrant from the Federal Magistrate. As a result the agents discovered marijuana plants being grown in the garage. Elliot has tried to contest evidence, taken from his home, later plead guilty to retain a right to appeal.
The District Court supported the decision of the Ninth Circuit Court pointing out that "the device used cannot penetrate walls or windows to reveal conversations or human activities", and held the search warrant valid, based on the following arguments: Firstly, the thermal detector has not in any way penetrated Kyllo’s place and detected only heating which was outside the house and which Kyllo did not attempt to hide. And secondly the test did not reveal any "any intimate details of Kyllo's life". Supreme Court Decision The US Supreme Court has reversed the ruling of the Court of Appeals.
It held, that the aim of thermal heating test was not to investigate outside heat radiation, but to gain knowledge of that what was inside the house. Previously such sort of data could not become known without physically entering the house. So the test was a breach of the Fourth Amendment, since it has been conducted without a search warrant. Analysis This USSC decision appears to be more than contradictory. The Amendment speaks of “people’s right to be save”. Kyllo remained safe throughout the test. The device indeed measured only outside heat, which allowed agents only to make assumptions and conclusions about probable marijuana growing.
They could not reveal what was happening inside the house, they could only assume. Perhaps it was not rightful to issue a warrant based on the analysis of outside heat, but obviously investigation of outside heat has not constituted a search of home, because the device could not in any way gather evidence of what was happening INSIDE, but only about the OUTSIDE.
KYLLO V. UNITED STATES (99-8508) 533 U. S. 27 (2001) 190 F. 3d 1041, available at: http://www. law. cornell. edu/supct/html/99-8508. ZS. html