Court says thermal imaging search supported by probable cause | MassCops

Court says thermal imaging search supported by probable cause

Discussion in 'Court Decisions' started by kwflatbed, Feb 4, 2009.

  1. kwflatbed

    kwflatbed MassCops Angel Staff Member

    The use of a thermal imaging scanner to search property suspected of serving as a marijuana-growing operation was supported by probable cause, the en banc 8th Circuit has ruled.
    The warrant, which was based on information from an informant, authorized aerial use of a thermal imaging device to detect excess heat emanating from a home owned by the defendant.
    The imaging results were consistent with indoor marijuana growth. The police obtained a warrant to search the home and found more than 500 marijuana plants.
    The defendant challenged the first warrant, claiming that it didn't establish the informant's reliability and that his alleged observation of a growth operation was stale and uncorroborated.
    But the court held that even though the police applied for the warrant two months after the informant saw the marijuana-growing operation, they had done further investigation to corroborate his story.
    "[The officer] checked [the defendant's] criminal history, which corroborated one aspect of the informant's information and revealed ... [a previous conviction for] marijuana trafficking. More significantly, [the officer's] check of utility records showed recent, abnormally high electric power consumption. ...
    "[The officer's] affidavit explained that the indoor cultivation of marijuana requires high heat and humidity and the use of high intensity lights. Thus, the electric power consumption data, coupled with [the defendant's] criminal history, provided evidence of continuing criminal activity that compensated for [the officer's] lack of information about the [informant]'s reliability," the court held.
    U.S. Court of Appeals, 8th Circuit. U.S. v. Kattaria, No. 06-3903. Jan. 30, 2008. Lawyers USA No. 993-426.

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