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Police Restricted from Using Heat-Sensing Equipment in Drug Investigations

Technology has seemingly always moved faster than the law can keep up. Often, police will be allowed to use investigatory tactics that take advantage of these lapses in the law. If an individual does not fight these practices, the evidence that was obtained may be used against them at trial. If an offender challenges these tactics or the equipment that is being used, he or she may find the court is not sympathetic to his or her concerns.

However, a recent Georgia Supreme Court case may have a major impact upon those who are facing drug crimes charges. The Court was asked by the Georgia Court of Appeals to rule on a question concerning the definition of “tangible evidence” in a state statute.

The case concerns an individual that was suspected of growing marijuana inside of his home. Police officers received a tip from a confidential informant, and began their investigation to learn if the tip was accurate. Police examined the suspect’s trash, and found marijuana and other signs that indicated that the person was growing the drug.

Police then examined the electricity that was being used by the suspect, and determined that the suspect’s home used much more than those similarly sized in the neighborhood. At that point, police decided to use a thermal imaging device to determine if there were any drastic temperature differences within the home. An area where immense heat was present could be an indication that marijuana is being grown inside.

The police officer obtained a warrant before conducting the surveillance using the heat-imagining device. Based upon the results of the scan, the officer got a second warrant to go inside the individual’s home, where evidence of the growing operation was discovered.

The offender challenged the evidence obtained by the search of the home, saying that the phrase “tangible evidence” did not include information that could be learned by thermal imaging.

In its ruling, the court defined tangible evidence as “evidence that is essentially an object with material form that could be touched by a person” and ruled out the thermal imaging scan.

Despite this ruling, the evidence that was gathered in the search was allowed to be used against the defendant, because of the information that was provided earlier by the informant.

If you are facing drug crimes charges, it is important to speak to an experienced attorney to understand what you can do to defend your rights. Do not talk to the police without having your attorney present. Police want you to make the prosecution’s job much easier, and any information you provide may be used against you.