Oct 312009
 
 October 31, 2009  Posted by  Misc, U.S.

Thomas P. Crocker has an article (pdf) in the current issue of UCLA Law Review.  Here’s the abstract:

This Article explores a conflict between the protections afforded interpersonal relations in Lawrence v. Texas and the vulnerability experienced under the Fourth Amendment by individuals who share their lives with others. Under the Supreme Court’s third-party doctrine, we have no constitutionally protected expectation of privacy in what we reveal to other persons. The effect of this doctrine is to leave many aspects of ordinary life shared in the company of others constitutionally unprotected. In an increasingly socially networked world, the Fourth Amendment may fail to protect precisely those liberties—to live in the company of others free from state surveillance and intrusion—the Constitution should protect. Against the background of the third-party doctrine, we guarantee our privacy only by avoiding ordinary acts of interpersonal sharing. By contrast, the Court in Lawrence explains that intimate conduct occurring within protected personal relationships constitutes a private sphere wherein government may not intrude. Because the third-party doctrine views privacy narrowly, this Article develops a framework for revising Fourth Amendment jurisprudence in light of Lawrence’s protection for interpersonal liberty. By following the lessons of Lawrence, this Article proposes a way to reorient Fourth Amendment jurisprudence away from its focus on privacy in order to protect interpersonal liberty.

Hat-tip, Concurring Opinions.

Oct 302009
 
 October 30, 2009  Posted by  Court, Featured News, Online

Ashby Jones writes:

Here’s a question: Is it kosher for a law enforcement agency to, pursuant to a lawfully granted search warrant, search your Gmail account without telling you?

According to an opinion handed down earlier this year and currently making the rounds on legal blogs (here and here), the answer is yes.

The opinion, handed down by Portland, Ore., federal judge Michael Mosman, doesn’t really delve into the case’s facts. It cuts right to the legal issue: whether the government must notify the subscriber to an email service before the government undertakes a search.

[…]

Much of the reluctance to apply traditional notions of third party disclosure to the e-mail context seems to stem from a fundamental misunderstanding of the lack of privacy we all have in our e-mails. Some people seem to think that they are as private as letters, phone calls, or journal entries. The blunt fact is, they are not.

Read more on the WSJ Law Blog.

Over on FourthAmendment.com, John Wesley Hall comments:

The sad fact is that an amendment will be required to put a notice provision into the Stored Communications Act. People think e-mail is private like letters in transit, but “[t]he blunt fact is, they are not.” Technology is steadily overcoming the Fourth Amendment. From GPS to e-mail, our privacy is slipping away, and older notions of the meaning of the reasonable expectation of privacy no longer seem to apply. If people think that e-mail is private, then why cannot they have a subjective expectation of privacy “that society is prepared to recognize as ‘reasonable.'” Katz, infra, at 361 (Harlan, J., concurring).

The case is In the Matter of an Application of the United States for a Search Warrant on the Contents of Electronic Mail and for an Order Directing a Provider of Electronic Communication Services to not Disclose the Existence of the Search Warrant, 2009 WL 3416240 (No. 08-9131-MC, D. Ore.

Oct 132009
 
 October 13, 2009  Posted by  Court, Surveillance, U.S.

No, says the Indiana Court of Appeals in Garcia-Torres v. State:

After comparing cheek swabs with other searches requiring only reasonable suspicion, we conclude that the DNA sample collection technique at issue here, although minimally invasive, is also one of those limited searches that requires only reasonable suspicion and may therefore be conducted without a warrant. If anything, the cheek swab involves much less impact on the subject than some other searches that all agree may be conducted based on mere reasonable suspicion. As the United States Supreme Court has observed, “[e]ven a limited search of the outer clothing for weapons constitutes a severe, though brief, intrusion upon cherished personal security, and it must surely be an annoying, frightening, and perhaps humiliating experience.” Terry, 392 U.S. at 24-25. And yet, it is universally understood that such a pat-down may be conducted upon reasonable suspicion.

In contrast, a cheek swab takes even less time than a pat-down or field sobriety tests (”FSTs”) and is painless. Moreover, a swab of the inside of the cheek is very limited in scope, whereas a pat-down will generally involve manual exploration of the entirety of a suspect‘s body, including the genital areas. Finally, a swab does not carry nearly the same potential for opprobrium as pat-downs or FSTs, which will typically occur on public thoroughfares. As such, swabs are even less violative of the “[t]he interests in human dignity and privacy which the Fourth Amendment protects” than pat-downs or FSTs.

Read the rest of Orin Kerr’s post and the ensuing discussion on The Volokh Conspiracy. Criminal defense attorney Scott Greenfield also offers his own commentary on Simple Justice.

Sep 302009
 
 September 30, 2009  Posted by  Court, Surveillance, U.S.

Jennifer Granick of EFF has a commentary on a recent decision out of Massachusetts discussed here previously.

The Supreme Court of Massachusetts recently held that officers may not place GPS tracking devices on cars without first getting a warrant. The case, Commonwealth v. Connolly, was decided under the state corollary to the Fourth Amendment, and its reasoning may influence pending GPS tracking cases, including United States v. Jones, where EFF is an amicus.

Read more on EFF.