Attorney James K. Minick

Attorney James K. Minick

Under the 4th Amendment, the Constitution guarantees that an individual is to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures in their homes. This is due to the fact that a person has a reasonable expectation of privacy from government intrusion in their home. But what happens when the police have access to advanced technology that allows them to “look in” to your house without actually physically entering?

Kyllo v. United States

In Kyllo v. United States, the Supreme Court was faced with the question of whether the use of advanced technology by police to scan a person’s home from the outside violated the 4th Amendment. In this case, the police were investigating a house that they believed was a marijuana grow house. After not being able to find anything through the use of standard police surveillance, the police decided to use a infrared thermal imaging device that allowed them to see the heat signature of the house. In using the device, it revealed that the roof of the garage was far warmer then the rest of the house. From this observation, the police believed that Kyllo was using heat lamps for an indoor marijuana growing operation. After deliberating on the facts and legal theories of the case, the Supreme Court ruled that the search was illegal due its unreasonableness and the lack of a warrant. In the ruling, the Court stated that the use of technology that was not available to the general public violated a person’s reasonable expectation of privacy in their home. As such, the use of it for police purposes was an unreasonable search.


Although the Supreme Court ruled in Kyllo that the search was considered unreasonable, their primary justification was that the thermal imaging technology was unavailable to the public, therefore it violated a person’s reasonable expectation of privacy. However, this case occurred in 2001, when the technology was first becoming available. Currently, anybody can easily obtain thermal imaging technology through a variety of different stores or sources. Because of this, under the reasoning in Kyllo, since the technology is readily available to the public, a person cannot reasonably expect any privacy in their home from a thermal imaging scan. Based on this line of reasoning, individuals can expect the protection in their homes from unreasonable searches to degrade as more invasive technology comes into the public market.

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If you or someone you know have been charged with a crime based off a search conducted with some form of advanced technology, it is important to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney that can help zealously defend your case and possibly get the evidence excluded. Contact Us at Minick Law, P.C. for a free consultation on your case.

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