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Supreme Court to Examine Whether Thermal Imaging Constitutes Unreasonable SearchAired February 19, 2001 - 4:44 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOIE CHEN, CNN ANCHOR: At the Supreme Court tomorrow, the justices will consider whether police unconstitutionally intrude on privacy rights by using technology to see what is otherwise invisible in a person's home.
CNN's Charles Bierbauer explains in a preview of the case.
CHARLES BIERBAUER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Oregon National Guard used thermal imaging to register heat escaping from Danny Kyllo's house. Federal drug agents then used the information to obtain a search warrant. They found marijuana.
DANNY KYLLO, CONVICTED MARIJUANA GROWER: They did say there was enough there to go federally.
BIERBAUER: Kyllo was using halogen lamps to grow the pot.
KYLLO: Evidently, what they said they had seen from the thermal imaging, the halogen lights given off heat through the roof.
BIERBAUER: Kyllo and his lawyer say the thermal imaging constituted a search without probably cause, violating the Constitution's Fourth Amendment.
KENNETH LERNER, KYLLO'S ATTORNEY: If we lose, that means that there is no control over the police use of this technology. People could have their homes invaded because they've got their saunas on or because they're growing tomatoes or because they're working on their master model train set in the attic.
BLAIR JENNINGS, FLIR INFRARED IMAGING: I can also ask the camera if I'd like to automatically find the hot spot for me in this image.
BIERBAUER: Federal officials and the device's manufacturer say it is not intrusive because it simply measures waste heat escaping a home.
(on camera): The infrared will detect the heat from my handprint on this wall. It could also detect a significant heat source behind the wall, but could not tell you what that source is.
JENNINGS: If you wanted to see through walls, x-ray technology would be the vehicle to do that, not infrared.
BIERBAUER (voice-over): Infrared devices already have an established role in law enforcement, on U.S. borders and in military applications.
KYLLO: There are good benefits to thermal imaging, don't get me wrong -- for finding someone that's lost in the woods or finding someone in a burning building. But it should not be used unless they have probable cause to look into someone's home. And that's what they've done to my house.
BIERBAUER (voice-over): Kyllo pled guilty to the marijuana charge and faces five years in prison pending this appeal. Lower courts have ruled his privacy was not violated.
Charles Bierbauer, CNN, the Supreme Court.
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