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
Category Archives: Search and Seizure
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 →
In June, the United States Supreme Court granted certiorari in Carpenter v. United States (No. 16-402) (docket here), a case involving the intersection of technology and the Fourth Amendment and application of the third-party doctrine to digital data. In this post I’ll preview that case. Continue reading →
It’s not Thursday, but I’m going to throw it back a few years to 2014. Like the rest of the nerds I know, I became obsessed that year with the podcast Serial. The first season of that podcast chronicled the prosecution of Adnan Syed for the 1999 murder of his ex-girlfriend, Hae Min Lee. Host Sarah Koenig meticulously sifted through the evidence and conducted goodness-knows-how-many interviews with everyone connected to the case, including numerous recorded interviews with Syed, who is serving a life sentence in a Maryland prison. Syed claims that he did not kill Lee, whose body was discovered six weeks after she disappeared buried in a Baltimore park. Koenig spends the first several episodes of the podcast describing inconsistencies in witness’s accounts of the day Lee disappeared—inconsistencies that raise doubts about Syed’s guilt. But in episode five, Koenig, with the help of her producer, analyzes the evidence that the State offered regarding which cell towers serviced calls to Syed’s phone during the time that one of Syed’s friends claimed Syed was burying Lee’s body. The producer concludes:
“I think they were probably in [the park] . . . Because . . . the amount of luck that you would have to have to make up a story like that and then have the cell phone records corroborate those key points, I just don’t think that that’s possible.”
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 →
State v. Johnson, __ N.C. __ (August 18, 2017) opens like a novel:
Defendant was stopped at a red light on a snowy evening. When the light turned green, defendant’s truck abruptly accelerated, turned sharply left, and fishtailed, all in front of a police officer in his patrol car. The officer pulled defendant over for driving at an unsafe speed given the road conditions.
On second thought, maybe this reads more like a bar exam question (or a Dan Fogelberg song).
What say you, barristers? Was the stop lawful?
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 →
Huddy, ___N.C. App. ___, 799 S.E.2d 650 (April 18, 2017) was decided earlier this year and reversed the trial court’s denial of a motion to suppress. A unanimous Court of Appeals found that the search of the defendant’s home was not justified under either the knock and talk doctrine or the community caretaking exception to the warrant requirement. The knock and talk portion of the opinion is interesting (indeed, the concurring opinion is devoted solely to that topic) and invalidates the search on those grounds, but I wanted to focus on the community caretaking aspect of the opinion. Jeff previously blogged about the community caretaking exception to the warrant requirement here. Huddy doesn’t answer all of the questions raised in that post about the exception, but the opinion sheds some light on its scope and shows the balancing test for the exception in practice. Continue reading →
Sometimes, after a defendant has been arrested for a crime, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officer will file an immigration detainer with the agency that has custody of the defendant. The detainer asks the agency to notify ICE when the defendant would otherwise be eligible for release — for example, because the defendant has posted bond, or because the charges against the defendant have been dismissed — and to hold the defendant for up to 48 hours thereafter to enable ICE to take custody of the defendant. I have often wondered about the authority for holding a defendant pursuant to such a detainer. Recent developments indicate that courts are increasingly wondering about that too. Continue reading →
Two of last week’s opinions from the North Carolina Supreme Court address significant legal issues arising in impaired driving cases. In State v. Godwin, the supreme court reversed the court of appeals, holding that the trial court was not required to explicitly recognize a law enforcement officer as an expert witness before the officer could testify to the results of a Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) test. In State v. Romano, the supreme court upheld the court of appeals’ determination that the withdrawal of blood from an unconscious impaired driving defendant violated the Fourth Amendment, notwithstanding a state statute authorizing this practice. Continue reading →