Can a municipal worker photograph over a privacy fence when given permission to enter an adjacent property without violation 4th amendment?

1 Answer 1


Maybe and Yes respectively

The relevant legal principle is if the photographs constitute a 'search' within the meaning of the 4th amendment. If they violate the expectation of privacy they are a 'search' and must therefore be reasonable; if they don't they are not a 'search' and their reasonableness is irrelevant.

In Florida v Riley 488 U.S. 445 (1989) the Supreme Court held that observing someone's property from a helicopter is not a 'search'. If that's not a search then looking over a fence isn't either.

  • 1
    In contrast, using a technology beyond the powers of the human eye, such as X-rays or infrared cameras, have been held to be a search. Similarly, if you flew an insect sized drone into someone's house or covered rear veranda, that would also probably be a search.
    – ohwilleke
    May 15, 2019 at 23:52
  • @ohwilleke binoculars are ok?
    – Dale M
    May 15, 2019 at 23:58
  • Depends on how good they are.
    – ohwilleke
    May 16, 2019 at 0:00
  • 1
    @DaleM The Supreme Court held that infrared cameras were a search because they involved a technology that wasn't in general public use (whereas the skies are in general public use, so it's less reasonable to expect privacy for something that's visible from the air). Binoculars are in general public use, so absent some very special binoculars they'd likely be fine.
    – cpast
    May 16, 2019 at 0:36

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