The Santa Clara, Cal., police received an anonymous telephone tip that marijuana was growing in respondent's backyard, which was enclosed by two fences and shielded from view at ground level. Officers who were trained in marijuana identification secured a private airplane, flew over respondent's house at an altitude of 1,000 feet, and readily identified marijuana plants growing in the yard. A search warrant was later obtained on the basis of one of the officer's naked-eye observations; a photograph of the surrounding area taken from the airplane was attached as an exhibit. The warrant was executed, and marijuana plants were seized. After the California trial court denied respondent's motion to suppress the evidence of the search, he pleaded guilty to a charge of cultivation of marijuana. The California Court of Appeal reversed on the ground that the warrantless aerial observation of respondent's yard violated the Fourth Amendment.
Warren Earl Burger
Lewis Franklin Powell
William Joseph Brennan
Harry Andrew Blackmun
Laurence K. Sullivan, Deputy Attorney General of California, argued the cause for petitioner. With him on the briefs were John K. Van de Kamp, Attorney General, Steve White, Chief Assistant Attorney General, and Eugene W. Kaster, Deputy Attorney General. Marshall Warren Krause, by appointment of the Court, 472 U.S. 1025, argued the cause for respondent. With him on the brief was Pamela Holmes Duncan. Briefs of amici curiae urging reversal were filed for the State of Indiana et al. by Linley E. Pearson, Attorney General of Indiana, William E. Daily and Lisa M. Paunicka, Deputy Attorneys General, Charles A. Graddick, Attorney General of Alabama, Charles M. Oberly, Attorney General of Delaware, Michael J. Bowers, Attorney General of Georgia, Neil F. Hartigan, Attorney General of Illinois, Robert T. Stephan, Attorney General of Kansas, David L. Armstrong, Attorney General of Kentucky, William J. Guste, Jr., Attorney General of Louisiana, James E. Tierney, Attorney General of Maine, Francis X. Bellotti, Attorney General of Massachusetts, William L. Webster, Attorney General of Missouri, Robert M. Spire, Attorney General-Designate of Nebraska, Brian McKay, Attorney General of Nevada, Stephen E. Merrill, Attorney General of New Hampshire, Paul Bardacke, Attorney General of New Mexico, Anthony Celebrezze, Attorney General of Ohio, LeRoy S. Zimmerman, Attorney General of Pennsylvania, Travis Medlock, Attorney General of South Carolina, Jeffrey Amestoy, Attorney General of Vermont, Gerald L. Baliles, Attorney General of Virginia, Kenneth O. Eikenberry, Attorney General of Washington, and Archie G. McClintock, Attorney General of Wyoming; for Americans for Effective Law Enforcement Inc. et al. by Fred E. Inbau, Wayne W. Schmidt, James P. Manak, David Crump, and Daniel B. Hales; for the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation by Christopher N. Heard; and for the Washington Legal Foundation by Daniel J. Popeo and George C. Smith. Briefs of amici curiae urging affirmance were filed for the American Civil Liberties Union et al. by C. Douglas Floyd, Alan L. Schlosser, and Charles S. Sims; for the Civil Liberties Monitoring Project by Amitai Schwartz; and for the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers by John Kenneth Zwerling.