I can’t stop writing about Fayetteville! The city council’s 120-day moratorium on consent searches by the police during traffic stops came under fire this week from several angles. First, the Attorney General’s office issued an advisory letter concluding, in essence, that a municipal government can’t take away a power granted by a state statute — in this case, G.S. 15A-221, which allows officers to do consent searches — and that municipal regulation of consent searches is preempted by state law. Second, several “current and former” Fayetteville officers, together with the Southern States Police Benevolent Association, sued the city over the moratorium. (Civil procedure isn’t my area, but why would a former officer have standing?) The Fayetteville Observer has the story here. It’s an interesting legal issue, but I wish that the factions could find some common ground. In other news:
1. Chapel Hill may be moving towards banning the use of a cell phone while driving. Because it is Chapel Hill, things aren’t moving quickly: the town council took the bold step of voting to “continue discussing” a ban, as reported here. The legality of such a ban is questionable, as Shea noted in this post. If it does come to pass, the ban under consideration will (a) exempt emergency calls and calls to parents, spouses, and children, and (b) be punishable only by a $25 fine. Just in case I’m ever busted on the way to work in the morning, I want everyone to know that I will definitely be on the phone with my wife.
2. Several noteworthy law-and-technology stories appeared this week. First, the Eleventh Circuit held that the Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination prevents the government from compelling a suspect to decrypt an encrypted hard drive, as discussed here on the Volokh Conspiracy. Compare the ruling in this case to the rulings noted in this prior post. Second, Gizmodo reports here on a new wearable camera designed for use by law enforcement officers. They’re made by Taser, look pretty intimidating, and strike me as the forefront of the inevitable. Third, back to the Volokh Conspiracy for this post about a federal judge in Louisiana who struck down the Louisiana law barring sex offenders from much internet activity. The First Amendment issues are ones that are likely to recur across the nation, including here in North Carolina.
3. Turning to biological rather than mechanical technology, the Ninth Circuit just upheld California’s DNA-collection-on-arrest law. Read more in this WSJ Law Blog story. I’ve blogged about this issue before, including coverage of another Ninth Circuit case here. Does the Ninth Circuit bind North Carolina’s appellate courts? Of course not. But if privacy advocates can’t win in the Ninth Circuit, would they be likely to win here if they challenged North Carolina’s relatively new DNA-on-arrest law? At least at first blush, it doesn’t seem likely.
4. Finally, if any readers are recent law school graduates struggling to find work, never fear. In this profile, Above the Law reveals that at least one newly-minted lawyer has found a good job with reasonable hours and good pay. As a truck driver. In North Dakota. Of course, if you go down that proverbial (and literal) road, you’re still welcome to follow this blog!