The Fourth Amendment and the Drones: How Will it Apply?

By:  Joe Wolverton, II
08/16/2012
       
The Fourth Amendment and the Drones: How Will it Apply?

 With the rise of the drones comes the rise of several critical questions of Constitutionality of their potential uses. One of the most crucial of those inquiries concerns the application of the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition against “unlawful searches and seizures” and the requirement that warrants be supported by affidavits “particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

On a near daily basis, The New American chronicles the approach of the day when squadrons of drones will fill the skies of the United States. Scores of these unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) will be deployed by state and local law enforcement, adding to the many already deployed by the federal government.

With the rise of the drones comes the rise of several critical questions of Constitutionality of their potential uses. One of the most crucial of those inquiries concerns the application of the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition against “unlawful searches and seizures” and the requirement that warrants be supported by affidavits “particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

As readers will recall, in June Senator Rand Paul introduced a bill “To protect individual privacy against unwarranted governmental intrusion through the use of unmanned aerial vehicles commonly called drones.” Paul’s bill mandates that:

[A] person or entity acting under the authority [of], or funded in whole or in part by, the Government of the United States shall not use a drone to gather evidence or other information pertaining to criminal conduct or conduct in violation of a statute or regulation except to the extent authorized in a warrant that satisfies the requirements of the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.

In support of his measure, Senator Paul explained that “Americans going about their everyday lives should not be treated like criminals or terrorists and have their rights infringed upon by military tactics.”

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