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Long Lake Township asks Michigan Supreme Court to review drone surveillance case

Drone - Steve Carmody MI Radio.jpeg
Steve Carmody
/
Michigan Radio
Long Lake Township is asking the Michigan Supreme Court to review a case that centers around the use of drone surveillance for zoning enforcement.

Long Lake Township is asking the Michigan Supreme Court to review a case that centers around the use of drone surveillance for zoning enforcement.

The Michigan Supreme Court only considers a small number of cases each year and the township is seeking to persuade it that this case involves legal issues of great significance.

In March, the Michigan Court of Appeals issued a precedent setting opinion, and held that Long Lake Township's warrantless drone surveillance violated residents Todd and Heather Maxon's Fourth Amendment rights. That appellate opinion overturned an order issued in 2019 by Grand Traverse County Circuit Court Judge Thomas G. Power that denied the couple's motion to suppress photographs taken by the township's drone operator.

The Court of Appeals ruling "conclude[d] that persons have a reasonable expectation of privacy in their property against drone surveillance, and therefore a governmental entity seeking to conduct drone surveillance must obtain a warrant or satisfy a traditional exception to the warrant requirement."

The township's attorneys argue in their recent filings with the supreme court that "aerial surveillance is not a search at all and, thus, implicates no Fourth Amendment protections."

The Michigan Townships Association and Michigan Municipal League previously filed a brief in the case supporting Long Lake Township's legal position on warrantless drone surveillance. It’s brief indicates that their membership consists of over 1,235 townships and 524 other local governments in Michigan.