MEDFORD, Ore. — Police are using Internet mapping sites to track down illegal marijuana growers. They say they can zoom in and even count how many marijuana plants are growing. Some law enforcement agencies are using the information found on Google Earth, along with other evidence, to obtain search warrants.
Google Earth is available to anybody, so it’s legal for police to use it during their investigations. The Jackson County District Attorney says Google Earth is just like driving past a suspicious place in a car, except the view is from space.
The Medford Area Drug Gang Enforcement Team says they do sometimes consult Google Earth, but they do not use the information online to obtain a search warrant because the views are not in real time; therefore, they have to investigate further.
In a marijuana grow bust in Grants Pass, police were able to obtain a search warrant with the information they collected off of Google Earth, as well as pictures taken during a flyover, something that is also completely legal.
“Oregon law says as long as you’re not having to fly your plane too low, and you’re viewing it again from a lawful vantage point, you can fly at that legal level, as well as anybody with a small plane can fly at that legal level, so you’re not doing something the general public couldn’t do,” said Jackson County District Attorney Beth Heckert.
The District Attorney says she does believe a search warrant could be obtained just through images found on Google Earth.