IN THE COURT OF APPEALS OF THE STATE OF MISSOURI
THE STATE OF MISSOURI,
Appeal from the Circuit Court of St. Louis County, Missouri
21st Judicial District
The Honorable Sydney Nicole Zellweger, Judge
BRIEF OF THE DEFENDANT
JIMMY JOHNS, #22486
Attorney for the Defendant, Appellant
2258 Sunshine Lane, Suite 401
St. Louis, Missouri 63131
Table of Contents
STATEMENT OF JURISDICTION
This Honorable Court has jurisdiction over Ms. Kimberly Hall, as she is a resident and citizen of the state of Missouri.
INDEX OF AUTHORITIES
- Kyllo v. United States, 533 US 27 (2001)
- Katz v. United States, 389 US 347 – Supreme Court 1967
- 14 CFR § 107.29
- Missouri House Bill 46. § 305.637
- Missouri State Statute § 542.276
- U.S. Const. amend. IV
- Will Missouri State Statute § 542.276 bring forth a dismissal of charges which were a result of the search and seizure of the private property without a search warrant presented to the parties at the time of the search?
- Was the drone in compliance with the Federal Regulations to Fly over private property?
- Why/how was Ms. Hall involved in trafficking?
Your client, Ms. Kimberly Hall, stands convicted under your state law for charges involving theft, trafficking in stolen property, fraud, and alteration of vehicle identification numbers. Hall runs a small salvage yard on a 3.5-acre piece of property surrounded by several fences, tall trees, dense scrub bushes, and posted No Trespassing signs. The property contains 2 structures: a small one-room cabin, in which Hall resides, and a separate structure, approximately 30 feet high, with sliding barn doors on all four sides, no windows, and no roof. Early on the day of Hall’s arrest, state and local authorities conducted a drone-surveillance sweep after an anonymous tip line received several calls reporting the operation of multiple automotive chop shops in a rural location within your state of residence. Captured video of the larger structure, obtained by the drone’s camera from approximately 100 feet in the air and simultaneously transmitted to police officers on the ground, revealed the presence of multiple dismantled vehicles, a pile of license plates, various automotive parts and tools, including grinders, cutting saws, hoists, and welding rigs. Hall was taken into police custody at approximately 5:00 a.m. that morning and was subsequently charged based on that footage.
At trial, several residents claimed that the presence of the drones in the early morning hours resulted in unnecessary panic, which quickly swept the small community, and resulted in multiple calls to local police dispatch, some minor property damage, and at least one assault. Sally Jones, who lives adjacent to Ms. Hall, testified that “Conner Peterson and those damned drones caused enough drama and paranoia to end a 25-year friendship in a fistfight.” Conner Peterson, a survivalist/prepper and avid short-wave radio enthusiast, stated for the record that, on the morning of Hall’s arrest, he was up late monitoring radio transmissions between members of a known local anti-government group who were discussing plans for “something big” involving the use of personal drones. Mr. Peterson stated that he heard an unusual buzzing noise coming from the west side of his property as he stood outside with his dog at approximately 4:00 a.m. When he spotted a drone hovering between his house and his garage, he immediately began calling to warn his neighbors that something was up and to remain vigilant. The trial court considered all testimony, exhibits, and arguments and found your client guilty.
- The Trial Court erred when it assumed that citizens of the state of Missouri possess no reasonable right to privacy within their personal property, without a threat of unwarranted searches by state agencies or other persons.
The Missouri House Bill 46 (MO HB46) on establishing the preserving freedom from unwarranted surveillance prohibits the use of drones or other aircraft to gather evidence or other information. The bill identifies a drone as any powered aerial vehicle that:
(a) Does not carry a human operator;
(b) Uses aerodynamic forces to provide vehicle lift;
(c) Can fly autonomously or be piloted remotely;
(d) Can be expendable or recoverable; and
(e) Can carry a lethal or non-lethal payload.
Under MH OB46 § 305.637, the owner of the privately-owned property deserves the right to privacy. He/she should be protected against the threat of surveillance to the extent that sufficient visual images or videos obtained by cameras can be used to identify unique features. On the morning of Ms. Hall’s arrest, the police deployed a drone that captured a video of the property approximately 100 feet in the air. The video released by the drone revealed the presence of dismantled vehicles in the property, several license plates, and other vehicle parts and tools. The images were clear, indicating the ability to tell unique features surrounding the property. Having sufficient clarity to reveal the uniqueness of these features matches the definition of the term surveillance, which indicates that the policy was, indeed, surveying Ms. Hall’s property, in direct violation of Missouri law.
- The Trial Court erred when it ruled that unwarranted drone surveillance does not infringe on the rights of citizens provided by the Fourth Amendment.
The trial court in Missouri found Ms. Hall guilty of theft, trafficking of stolen property, and fraud through alteration of license plates or vehicle identification numbers located during the search in the property. This evidence, however, was collected through violation of rights stipulated in the fourth amendment. The fourth amendment states that people have the right to,
“…Be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures…” U.S. Const. Amend. IV
It also provides that this right shall not be violated. The defendant was subjected to an unreasonable search by the police department via surveillance of the private property using a drone. Ms. Hall was not given notice before the search at such an unreasonable hour of the day and was unable to protect herself from policy incrimination. The police approach failed to provide a workable accommodation between law enforcement needs and Fourth Amendment interests. In the KYLLO V. UNITED STATES (99-8508) 533 U.S. 27 (2001), the Supreme Court declared that an unlawful search does not have the basis to support the admission of evidence collected in a case involving private property.
At approximately 5.00 AM, Ms. Hall was arrested and charged based on the video evidence collected by the local authority. Based on the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, Rule 41(c), the state agency must issue a warrant for any evidence of a crime. Before the morning of the arrest, there was no credible information to point the defendant to any crime before. The use of an anonymous tip was the only basis of the police employing the drone to conduct the surveillance without her knowledge. The search would require a warrant from a judge, which was never issued in the case, and led to the eventual conviction of Ms. Hall in the trial court with such notable loopholes in the investigation.
- The surveillance involving the drone violated the federal regulations on the use of unmanned drones in searches.
In Katz v. United States, 389 U.S. 347 (1967), the Supreme Court held that the government could only authorize the use of drones in a search under sufficiently precise and discriminative circumstances for the narrow and particularized purpose of ascertaining the truth of raised allegations. The police acted swiftly on an anonymous tip that was not validated with further investigations or through proper legal processes. Subsequently, it would be inappropriate to rely on such information and warrantless search that violated Ms. Hall’s constitutional rights to conclude that she had engaged in theft, trafficking in stolen property, fraud, and alteration of vehicle identification numbers.
Thus, in the present case, the evidence presented to the court was collected unlawfully and unconstitutionally. As a result, it should not be admissible in evidence against Ms. Hall. The police department conducted a warrantless search based on an anonymous tip and collected evidence that led to the defendant’s conviction in the trial proceedings. Under Rule 41 of Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, Fourth Constitutional Amendment, and Missouri House Bill No. 46, the court erred by admitting the evidence into the trial.
WHEREFORE, Defendant respectfully requests that the Honorable Judge Zellweger drop any/and all charges and award damages amounting to $40,000 for lost wages, pain, and suffering incurred during the proceedings. Subsequently, Defendant requests the judge to demand the Police Department provide a public apology.