USA Today reports that new police radars can be used to, in effect, “see” through walls and into a person’s home by using radio waves to reveal human motion within a home. According to the story,
“At least 50 U.S. law enforcement agencies have secretly equipped their officers with radar devices that allow them to effectively peer through the walls of houses to see whether anyone is inside, a practice raising new concerns about the extent of government surveillance. . . .
They can detect whether anyone is inside of a house, where they are and whether they are moving.”
The law enforcement agencies have reportedly been using this technology for the past two years, without notice to the public or courts:
“Agents’ use of the radars was largely unknown until December, when a federal appeals court in Denver said officers had used one before they entered a house to arrest a man wanted for violating his parole. The judges expressed alarm that agents had used the new technology without a search warrant, warning that “the government’s warrantless use of such a powerful tool to search inside homes poses grave Fourth Amendment questions.””
An infographic by USA Today demonstrates how the radar works:
However, other versions of the radar reportedly have significantly more enhanced capabilities, such as “three-dimensional displays of where people are located inside a building” and “[o]ne is capable of being mounted on a drone.” This type of radar technology was initially designed as battlefield technology for use in Iran and Afghanistan. In fact, the Justice Department has reportedly funded research to continue the development of systems that can “map the interiors of buildings and locate the people within them.”
This technology, which is not now new in light of recent reports, poses significant Constitutional issues. Police are not permitted to scan the inside of a home with a thermal camera without a warrant, and drug dog sniffs of the outside of homes have been limited by the Supreme Court. While it would seem that these radars would(or should) fall under the same Constitutional analysis, it appears that the Denver federal appeals court’s decision published last month (referenced above) was the first court decision referencing the radar technology or its Constitutional implications.
The full USA Today story can be found HERE.
Casey Reiter is an associate attorney at Stuart R. Manoff & Associates, P.A. in West Palm Beach, Florida, practicing in the areas of Criminal Defense and Family law.