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The district court enunciate a two-pronged inquiry as to whether the government has intruded upon an individual's reasonable expectation of privacy. First, the court asks whether the individual, by his conduct, has exhibited a subjective expectation of privacy. Second, the court asks whether that subjective expectation is one that society is prepared to recognize as reasonable.
Law enforcement officials obtained a state search warrant based on observations of a greenhouse made from public navigable airspace during three separate overflights. The warrant was executed, which resulted in the seizure of approximately 553 marijuana plants. Six defendants were charged with federal narcotics violations. At trial, defendants filed a motion to suppress the evidence on the ground that the aerial surveillance constituted a warrantless search in violation of U.S. Const. amend IV. The district court granted the motion and held that defendants had standing, the aerial surveillance was an illegal search that required suppression of the evidence obtained as a result thereof, and the good faith exception to the exclusionary rule was inapplicable to the warrantless search.
Was the aerial surveillance an illegal search, thus requiring suppression of evidence obtained?
The court reversed and remanded. The court held that although defendants had a subjective expectation of privacy in the greenhouse, the expectation of privacy was not one that society was prepared to observe as reasonable. Therefore, the overflights conducted by the officers did not amount to a search that would have required a warrant under U.S. Const. amend. IV.