St. Mary's Law Journal


Services such as Google Maps and MapQuest significantly impact how consumers use the Internet. For as much as they contribute to Internet use, issues arise concerning the use of satellite images and aerial photographs in the context of litigation. Historical concerns about satellite and aerial imagery typically involved expectations of privacy and the application of the Fourth Amendment. Courts and citizens alike express concern with when and where privacy ends with respect to aerial views. Concerns as to the admissibility of aerial photographs have also been prominent. Specifically, interest in admissibility of these photographs focuses on sufficiency, relevance, and accuracy. For example, some courts allow laying an evidentiary foundation without testimony from the photographer as to a photograph’s accuracy. Nonetheless, with the general public’s increased access to aerial photographs, questions remain as to how courts will rule—particularly in Texas—on the evidentiary issues in connection with aerial photographs. There is no simple answer to the question of how to deal with admitting aerial photographs into evidence in Texas, especially considering many jurisdictions across the United States apply a variety of methods. Current application of the evidentiary rules governing the admissibility of aerial photographs does not provide practitioners with any level of certainty due to the difficulty of finding a witness. This particular issue is largely left to the discretion of the court in determining admissibility. Without any guidelines for a court to follow when making its determination, a party may be unable to legitimately participate in the appellate process. Judicial economy, at all levels of our legal system, requires the issue to be resolved by taking judicial notice of aerial images.


St. Mary's University School of Law