Skip to main content
You have permission to edit this article.
Edit
Alaska court rules police need aerial surveillance warrants
AP

Alaska court rules police need aerial surveillance warrants

  • 0
Only $5 for 5 months

FAIRBANKS, Alaska (AP) — The Alaska Court of Appeals has ruled law enforcement officers cannot use cameras and drones for aerial searches of property without a warrant.

The court acknowledged police have a legal right to fly over property, but the use of observational technology violates the right to privacy guaranteed in the Alaska Constitution, KTVF-TV reported Monday.

“An officer’s use of vision-enhancing technology should be deemed a ’search’ if the technology allows the officer to make observations that are significantly more detailed than what an unaided human eye would be able to see at the same distance,” the ruling said.

Maria Bahr, a spokesperson for the Alaska Department of Law, said in an email the state is deciding whether to seek a review by the Alaska Supreme Court. She noted the Supreme Court is not obligated to accept any possible petition for review of the case.

The Fairbanks Police Department uses drones, but it said the ruling is unlikely to affect their work.

“Our policy has always been, if you think you need a search warrant we should probably get one, especially if we are already going to be somewhere with the intent of looking into private property,” said Officer Jason Pace, who flies the department's drones.

The ruling stems from a 2012 case in which Alaska State Troopers received a tip about marijuana being grown on a property near Fairbanks.

Troopers could not confirm the report because of thick trees obscuring the view. But then they used a helicopter to take photos with a telephoto camera lens.

Troopers used the images to apply for a search warrant and arrest John William McKelvey.

McKelvey’s attorney, Robert John, filed a motion to suppress evidence, claiming that taking photos from the air to obtain a warrant invaded his client’s right to privacy.

The trial court rejected the argument, and McKelvey was found guilty on two charges. The case was heard by the Alaska Court of Appeals in 2018.

John said the appeal ruling confirmed police in the air "can only investigate with their naked eye. They cannot employ technology. They cannot employ drones.”

For copyright information, check with the distributor of this item, KTVF-TV.

The business news you need

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Related to this story

Most Popular

  • Updated

WELLINGTON, New Zealand: All remaining virus restrictions will be lifted across much of New Zealand from late Monday with the exception of the largest city, Auckland, which will continue to have some restrictions for at least another 16 days. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern made the announcement Monday after meeting with top lawmakers. The nation of 5 million re-imposed some restrictions last month after an Auckland outbreak which now appears to be under control. Under the plan, maximum gathering sizes in Auckland will be increased from 10 to 100 on Wednesday and then caps removed two weeks after that. “Auckland needs more time,” Ardern told reporters in the city. “Whilst we have reasonable confidence we are on the right track, there is still a need in Auckland for that cautious approach.” Health authorities reported no new cases on Monday. The number of active cases is 62, with 33 from community spread and 29 among quarantined returning travelers.

Get up-to-the-minute news sent straight to your device.

Topics

Breaking News

News Alert