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Ga. judges outlaw pot-growing heat scans

Oct. 16, 2012 at 2:14 PM

ATLANTA, Oct. 16 (UPI) -- The Georgia Supreme Court ruled police cannot use thermal image scans to search for indoor marijuana-growing operations.

The judges said Georgia law requires search warrants to seek "tangible evidence" -- and that the heat-seeking scans taken from outside a home do not meet that standard as the law is currently written. The judges, however, said if the state Legislature were to pass such a law authorizing the thermal scans, they would be legal, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Monday.

"Giving the word 'tangible' full effect, it appears that the General Assembly intended 'tangible evidence' to mean evidence that is essentially an object with material form that could be touched by a person," Justice Harris Hines wrote in the court's unanimous opinion. "That meaning does not include the remotely sensed heat at issue here."

The thermal heat scan challenge was brought by James Brundige of Athens, Ga., who was arrested in 2009 after police used a heat scanner to detect a marijuana-growing operation in his garage. The court did not toss out the warrant police then obtained to search the garage because officers had originally been tipped off by an informant, which the judges said gave police probable cause to conduct the search.

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