Search of cell phone text messages without a warrant

A person has a constitutional right against unreasonable search and seizures.  Essentially every person has a right to privacy under the US constitution.  Now the right to privacy is reduced when a person is arrested or under other circumstances. 

Under these rules, police can’t randomly search people to look for drugs or evidence linking them to crimes.  Police need a legitimate reason to search a person or a warrant.  When a person is arrested, police are allowed to do an inventory of the person’s belongings.  This inventory search may lead to the discovery of illegal materials such as weapons or drugs. 

With the new world of technology, courts across the United States are trying to determine the use of warrantless search on technology.  In California, a court ruled that the police don’t need to obtain a warrant to search the text messages of a suspected drug dealer. 

In the 2007 case, the Defendant was arrested by the police on suspicion of drug dealing.  When the Defendant was arrested the police officer took the suspect’s phone out of his pocket and read the text messages without a warrant.  The court ruled that the police didn’t violate the Defendant’s constitutional right. 

States differ on this subject.  The Ohio Supreme Court ruled that arrested suspects phones can’t be searched without a warrant.  This issue is long from being resolved and may end up being reviewed and ruled on by the US Supreme Court.  Until then, it will be interesting to see how the states rule on this subject and other constitutional issues surrounding technology. 

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Caffeine defense in a murder case

Americans love their caffeine.  With Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks scattered all across the US, people can get their fill of caffeine at anytime.  Additionally, products such as energy drinks and 5 hour energy are flying off the shelves. 

Recently, lawyers have begun to use the caffeine as a legal defense in criminal cases.  Lawyers have begun to argue that caffeine has affected the intent of the criminal, their knowledge and their confessions.  It is a novel defense and young defense and it will be interesting to see how the situation works out. 

 The most recent use of this defense is by Woody Sill Smith who is accused of killing his wife by strangulation.  The defense plans to argue that the large amount of caffeine ingested by the defendant resulted in an altered state of mind.  As a result of this temporary altered state of mind, the defendant should be found not guilty of the crime.

 The strategy of this case will be closely examined by both prosecutors and defense attorneys.  Seeing that the defense is so new, it will be interesting to see its development over time.  In the mean time, it may look as though a person should limit their caffeine consumption.   

 For more information

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Lessen your chances of getting pulled over for DUI

It is Labor Day weekend and it is the last opportunity for most people to enjoy a long weekend before the winter.  People are going to pack the highways and the police are going to be out in full force and arresting people for DUI.  The last thing that you want is to be pulled over for DUI.  The best way to avoid a DUI is to not drink and drive.  However, there are other things that you can do to lessen your chances of being pulled over for a DUI. 

 There are obvious DUI signs that a police officer looks for in DUI situations.  Some DUI signs that may lead an officer to suspect a person of a DUI are: the car is weaving, inability to stay within lanes, car accident, failing to obey traffic lights and just driving poorly. 

 However, even if the DUI suspect is driving properly, the DUI suspect may still be pulled over for civil violations.  When the officer approaches the DUI suspect and smells alcohol, the officer may start their DUI investigation.  A person can be pulled over for many civil violations that may lead to a DUI investigation.  Some common violations are rejected inspection stickers, improper window tint and excessive sounds from the car or mufflers. 

In short, it is important not to draw any attention to yourself because your car is not in good working order.  Before you go out make sure that your car is not going to draw unwanted attention from the police.  If you have an expired inspection sticker then don’t drive the car.  Because if you been drinking and get pulled over for a civil violation, it could end up with you being charged with a DUI. 

 To find out more information regarding the different DUI offenses, you can visit the DUI index.

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Police Interrogation (reader suggested topic)

Couple weeks back an avid reader suggested that I write about police interrogations. I liked the idea and finally came up with this. If you have any suggestions for topics please feel free to send them along and I will do my best to write about them. First my disclaimer, I am not a police officer, have never been trained in interrogation and I am not an expert in this area. The following about police interrogation is from my experience in viewing these types of interactions.

There are many things that work against you during an interrogation. The more you understand the process the better you can protect yourself. The best advice is to stay silent and get a lawyer as soon as possible. Aside from that, here are a few points to keep in mind.

The speed of the process. I hear the words, “well it all just happened so quickly” way too often. That is one of the largest problems working against you. Something happens, you get arrested, driven back to the police station, and then they start asking questions. The pace really bothers a lot of people, and it hurts their concentration. A lot of people are still trying to figure out what just happened at the scene, or are stunned about being arrested and as a result don’t pay attention at the police station. It is important that you stay focused, and in the moment.

The atmosphere. The area that you are usually brought into is a small bare room. The room is uncomfortable and it makes a lot of people uneasy and gives them a feeling of not being in control. There is usually a double sided mirror, video recording, some old chairs, uncomfortable lighting, and a sorry looking table. All this can make people feel uneasy. When you feel uneasy, it gives the other side the advantage.

The numbers. There are usually at least two officers there when the questioning happens. This uneven number can make people feel helpless, especially in a small room. The police do have to give you your Miranda rights. Those are usually given at the beginning when the conversation is still pretty easygoing. Because of the light atmosphere at the beginning, a lot of people sign away their rights. However, once the questioning gets going most regret waiving their rights. The police don’t have to let you know that you can still assert your right to an attorney even after you waive your rights. Remember to ask for an attorney before you speak with them, but even if you sign a waiver, you can still ask for an attorney later on.

The questioning. The police are very good at getting people talking. At the beginning of the questioning, they tend to ask easy questions. This usually gets people use to talking to them. We as a society have a tendency to keep talking once we start talking. The police may also use small amounts of outside information, like we talked to this person or we found this evidence, to encourage you further.

Video tapes and signed confessions. Usually every interviewed is video taped and the police will ask you to sign a written confession. A video taped signed confession can be devastating, and they usually are. Most of the time they are a key piece of the prosecution puzzle. Even if the police have a lot of physical or derivative evidence, they must link the evidence together to point at you. When you have a signed written confession you are helping the police tie the evidence together. You can be even filling in gaps that the police could not solve without more information.

The majority of police officers are nice to talk to and pretty helpful. However, they have a job to do and cases to investigate. A large part of their investigation requires them to question people. Knowing that, it is very important that you stay vigilant and protect yourself at all times. After all, you wouldn’t tell your spouse about the details of the bachelor or bachelorette party, would you? Then again I wouldn’t want to see the thing your spouse may do in response to you invoking your right to remain silent, or to an attorney.

Arrests and Interrogations FAQ

Mark A. Godsey: Shining the Bright Light on Police Interrogation in America

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You have the right to remain talking?

Most if not every person knows the Miranda warnings by heart:

You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can, and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to speak to an attorney, and to have an attorney present during any questioning. If you cannot afford a lawyer, one will be provided for you at government expense.

It is truly astonishing the amount of people who are given these rights and still decide to talk to the police. The police tell them that they have the right to remain silent, yet most people rather choose to exercise their right to remain talking at their own peril.

If the police suspects that you have committed a crime, and have enough evidence to file an official complaint, they will. There is little that you can say to stop the police from doing that. While you may believe you can talk your way out of the situation, it is highly unlikely to happen. Police officers are trained to extract information from people, and most of them are very effective at doing just that.

You have a right to an attorney, and one will be provided if you can’t afford one. Therefore, there is no reason why you should not talk to an attorney before talking to the police, or to have an attorney present during the interview. Think about it, before you go in for surgery wouldn’t you want a professional doctor to warn you about the possible dangers of the procedure, and reduce the risks that you may face?

When you are properly given your Miranda rights and confess, it makes it very difficult to suppress the statements. To make matters worse, police are trained to obtain a written confession and to tape the interviews. Many times, the confession is the strongest part of the prosecution’s case. So if you decide to exercise your right to talk, make sure you are ready to face the consequences.

Expert law provides a good question and answer about Miranda rights:

Globe story regarding a Vermont man confessing to murder

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