Court strikes down evidence in lawsuit gathered with drones

LONG LAKE TOWNSHIP, Michigan (AP) – A northern Michigan community violated the rights of two residents by drone taking aerial photos of cars and other salvage material on their property, the state appeals court said.

The photos were used as evidence in a lawsuit against Todd and Heather Maxon, who live in Long Lake Township, near Traverse City.

The Maxons argued that using a drone without a court order violated the fourth amendment’s protection from illegal searches. The community said the couple had no expectation for privacy, but the court disagreed.

“Individuals have a reasonable expectation of the privacy of their property against drone surveillance, and therefore a government agency wishing to conduct drone surveillance must receive a warrant or a traditional warrant exemption,” said Judges Kathleen Jansen and Amy Ronayne Krause.

The community already had evidence that the Maxons violated a zoning ordinance and caused a nuisance, the court said in a 2-1 statement on Thursday.

In a dissent, Judge Karen Fort Hood said she was also concerned about the “intrusive nature” of drones. However, she said the photos did not violate the fourth amendment, which was based on previous binding legal decisions.

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