Thermal Imaging Device Searches

Introduction

In Kyllo v. United States (2001), the U.S. Supreme Court held that use of a technological device to explore the details of a home that would previously have been unknown without physical intrusion is a search and is presumptively unreasonable without a warrant. The federal prosecutor argued that thermal imaging does not constitute a search because (1) “it detects only heat radiating from the external surface of the house” and therefore there was no entry, and (2) it did not detect private activities occurring in private areas because “everything that was detected was on the outside.”

The Court has ruled that plain view, plain odor, and plain touch are all constitutional. In Kyllo v. United States, the Court ruled the use of a thermal imaging device on a home was presumptively unreasonable without a warrant.

Instructions

In your main post:

  • Explain whether or not, as a criminal justice practitioner, you agree with the Court in Kyllo, and why. Include your rationale.
  • Analyze whether heat radiating from a private home should be protected using an additional related case as support for your position.
  • Differentiate the plain view, plain odor, and plain touch doctrines from the thermal imaging device in Kyllo with respect to search requirements.
  • Explore whether you believe the results of the Kyllo case has had a positive or negative impact for law enforcement.

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