Long Lake Township v. Maxon
What's at Stake
On September 8, 2023, the ACLU, the ACLU of Michigan, and the Mackinac Center for Public Policy filed an amicus brief in the Michigan Supreme Court arguing that the local government deploying an unmanned drone to take aerial photographs of the appellant’s property violated the Fourth Amendment.
In this case, the appellee, the Long Lake Township, hired and directed a drone operator to fly over the appellant’s home and surrounding property. The drone flew over appellant’s property three times, and captured photographs of it without permission or any other legal authorization. The Township then relied on those aerial photographs to allege that defendants were in violation of a zoning ordinance and a prior settlement agreement. In our amicus brief before the Michigan Supreme Court, we argue that this kind of novel, investigative, warrantless aerial surveillance violates the Fourth Amendment, and the township should be prohibited from using its unlawfully collected evidence in the zoning proceeding.
With rapidly advancing drone technology, aerial surveillance of this kind presents an ongoing threat to our individual right to privacy under the Fourth Amendment. No one reasonably expects that their local government will deploy investigative cameras in the sky to repeatedly record their behavior on their own private property. If the Township’s argument is accepted, it will not only profit from its privacy violations, but open the door to other local governments deploying cheap, pervasive, flying surveillance devices to surveil private property for the smallest civil infractions.
The ACLU’s amicus brief urges the Michigan Supreme Court to make clear that the appellee violated the appellants’ Fourth Amendment rights and that the unlawfully collected evidence should be suppressed.