OH5: Drone flyover found car hidden in def’s open fields

Defendant owned a vehicle police suspected was involved in an accident, and suspected it was hidden on his somewhat rural property. They used a drone to fly over the property seeing what was likely the car and then got a warrant to go in. The vehicle was sitting on open fields when it was viewed, and not on the curtilage. Ohio courts and SCOTUS have upheld aerial flyovers. State v. Stevens, 2023-Ohio-889, 2023 Ohio App. LEXIS 859 (5th Dist. Mar. 17, 2023). (Every police department has drones now, so expect more of these cases where the curtilage is actually invaded. Can this be an area where the reasonable expectation is extinguished over time by usage, like online privacy? Google satellite view has the curtilage, but it’s sure not as close and detailed as a drone can get with 4K resolution on the camera.)

Considering the fact disputes on probable cause to arrest, this determination will be left to a jury. Harris v. City of Saginaw, 2023 U.S. App. LEXIS 6578 (6th Cir. Mar. 20, 2023).*

The landlord checked defendant’s apartment for fire damage and saw marijuana inside, and he called the police. They came and could smell it. That led to a search warrant issued with probable cause. Smell of marijuana from a place is probable cause. United States v. Browne, 2023 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 46410 (S.D. W. Va. Mar. 20, 2023).*

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