Officers received an anonymous telephone tip that the defendant was growing marijuana in his backyard. This area was enclosed by two fences, six and ten feet in height, and shielded from view at ground level. Officers trained in marijuana identification secured a private airplane, flew over the defendant’s home at an altitude of 1,000 feet, and readily identified marijuana plants growing in his yard. A search warrant was issued based on this information.
Whether the naked-eye aerial observation of the defendant’s backyard constituted a search?
No. Areas within the curtilage may be observed from public areas.
The Fourth Amendment’s protection of the home and curtilage does not require law enforcement officers to shield their eyes when passing by a home on a public thoroughfare. Airways constitute a public thoroughfare. The government may use the public airways just as members of the public. While the fences were designed to conceal the plants at normal street level, they will not shield the plants from the elevated eyes of a citizen or a law enforcement officer.
476 U.S. 207, 106 S. Ct. 1809 (1986)