Several years ago, I wrote about law enforcement use of cell site simulators, or Stingrays, noting that “[t]here’s a controversy about the legal status of these devices.” This post discusses some new cases that attempt to resolve the controversy. Continue reading
I’ve been asked several times lately whether it is a good idea for an officer to use his or her personal cell phone to take work-related photographs, such as photographs of a crime scene or photographs of seized items. In this post, I explain why I think that’s OK, so long as it is consistent with agency policy. Continue reading →
On Sunday evening, the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history occurred at a country music concert in Las Vegas. Armed with more than 20 guns, some modified for increased rates of fire, Stephen C. Paddock killed 58 people and wounded more than 500 others by firing upon concert-goers from an elevated position inside the Mandalay Bay hotel. The Las Vegas Review-Journal has comprehensive coverage of the shooting. Keep reading for more news. Continue reading →
This Thursday at lunchtime (12:30 to 1:30) we will host our monthly “office hours” conference call. Shea Denning, Phil Dixon, and I will discuss recent developments in criminal law and will do our best to answer listeners’ questions. The event seems to be building an audience, and this month, we’d like to invite folks to submit questions or topic suggestions in advance, by posting a comment to this blog post or by email as described below. We will continue taking live questions on the call as well.
I suspect we’ll find time to talk about electronic surveillance. There’s a new out-of-state opinion about Stingrays and the Fourth Amendment, and the Supreme Court is getting ready to hear a major case about cell phone tracking. We’ll bring some other topics to the table, too, but as usual, we’ll let listeners drive the direction of the call. Read on for more details. Continue reading →
Apple just introduced the iPhone X, a new high-end smartphone. The phone can be unlocked using facial recognition, just as current iPhones can be unlocked using a fingerprint scanner. According to Forbes, the phone “uses a combination of light projectors and sensors to take several images of your facial features,” then compares the face of a person seeking to unlock the phone to the “depth map” it has created.
I wrote here and here about the Fifth Amendment implications of fingerprint scanners. The few courts that have addressed the issue have mostly agreed that a suspect can’t be required to provide the passcode to a phone, absent unusual circumstances, because that would violate the Fifth Amendment’s privilege against self-incrimination. However, courts mostly have held that a suspect may be ordered to press a finger to the phone because doing so is not “testimonial” and so is outside the scope of the privilege.
I thought that this would be a good time to consider facial recognition and the Fifth Amendment, and to provide an update on a recent case that reaches a different result than most other decisions to date. Continue reading →
Last year, the court of appeals ruled that a citation that failed to allege an essential element of an offense was sufficient to serve as the State’s pleading. The court concluded that “the standard for issuance of an indictment [which must allege every essential element of an offense to be valid] is not precisely the same as [for] a citation,” and under the more relaxed standard, the citation adequately identified the offense even though it failed to allege an essential element. State v. Allen, __ N.C. App. __, 783 S.E.2d 799 (2016) (an officer cited a motorist for an open container violation, but failed to allege that the container was in the passenger compartment of the defendant’s vehicle; more information about Allen is here).
Last week, a divided panel of the same court ruled that a citation that failed to allege multiple elements of an offense was sufficient. The new opinion raises questions about just how low the bar is for citations, and perhaps for other district court pleadings as well. Continue reading →
This session, the General Assembly passed S.L. 2017-94, which creates a rebuttable presumption that certain domestic violence homicides are premeditated and deliberate and therefore constitute first-degree murder. WRAL explains here that the measure is known as Britny’s Law “in memory of Britny Jordan Puryear, a 22-year-old who was shot and killed by her live-in boyfriend, Logan McLean, in their Fuquay-Varina home on Nov. 6, 2014, after a four-year abusive relationship.” The bill raises many questions, which this post attempts to answer. Continue reading →
I wrote about law enforcement use of drones here, and a little bit here. It is now easier than before for law enforcement agencies to acquire drones, and some agencies have done so. But courts have yet to engage with the Fourth Amendment issues that some uses of drones may present. This post provides an update on where things stand with law enforcement use of drones. Continue reading →
Domestic violence protective orders (DVPOs) are available to “persons of the opposite sex who are . . . or have been in a dating relationship,” and who are able to establish that the person that they are or were dating committed an act of domestic violence against them. Persons of the same sex who are or were in a dating relationship don’t have the same opportunity. Is that constitutional? The Supreme Court of South Carolina just addressed a related question, and its opinion suggests that the answer is no. Continue reading →