Friday, October 31, 2014

New Marijuana Policy In Brooklyn, New York

District Attorney Kenneth Thompson announced back in July a new policy in regards to marijuana possession. Under the new policy, the Kings County District Attorneys Office in Brooklyn, New York will no longer prosecute first-time offenders who were arrested for low-level misdemeanor marijuana possession. Low-level possession is twenty-five grams or less. DA Thompson’s policy reasons for this change included making better use of limited resources, and preventing otherwise good young men from being saddled with a criminal record due to a minor, non-violent offense. Before the policy was in effect, seventy percent of those arrested for marijuana possession in New York had no prior criminal record. Furthermore, eight-five percent of those who were arrested, were minorities, specifically blacks and Hispanics.  In 2012 alone, more than 12,000 people were arrested for small amounts of marijuana possession.  The District Attorney also cited that most judges in the county already tended to dismiss Class B misdemeanor marijuana possession, and that the focus should be on more serious crimes.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Rodriguez v. United States; De Minimis Car Searches

Rodriguez v. United States
Docket Number: 13-9972

Argument Heard: TBD

The Supreme Court has previously held that, during an otherwise lawful traffic stop, asking a driver to exit a vehicle, conducting a drug sniff with a trained canine, or asking a few off-topic questions are "de minimis" intrusions on personal liberty that do not require reasonable suspicion of criminal activity in order to comport with the Fourth Amendment.[1]  This case poses the question of whether the same rule applies after the conclusion of the traffic stop, so that an officer may extend the already-completed stop for a canine sniff without reasonable suspicion or other lawful justification.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Texas Protects Harassers’ Constitutional Rights in the Name of “Self-Expression”

A decision from the highest criminal court in Texas is the latest seeking to define the line between privacy and constitutionally protected speech.  Last month, the Texas Court of Criminal appeals struck down a portion of a state law that prevented people from taking “upskirt” pictures, holding that the law was unconstitutional on its face because it violated free-speech rights and penalized people’s thoughts at the expense of trying to protect people from harassment. The case involved a Texas statute, which made it a felony crime to photograph or record someone without the other person’s consent and “with the intent to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person.”

The Texas court found this statute to be unconstitutional under the Texas Constitution, and the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment’s right to free speech and individual thought.  The law was meant in part to protect against predatory photographers who covertly take pictures under women’s skirts or down their blouses than then post them on the Internet.  Complaints of such incidents have become common across the nation as mobile phones equipped with cameras are on the rise.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Life in a Box: The Plight of American Youth Growing Up in Solitary Confinement

Imagine being locked behind a steel door in a room so small you can barely stretch your arms out all the way.  All of your meals come in through a narrow slot in the door.  On the left side of your tiny cell is a rusted metal bed with a thin, rubber-foam mattress that is spotted with mold. Graffiti is scrawled all over the dirty walls.  To your right is a stainless steel toilet-sink combination.  The room smells of urine, sweat, and drool. In the cell next to you, you can hear someone screaming.  You are caged in this six-by-eight foot concrete box for twenty-three hours a day.  The days blend into each other.  You cry and scream and yell.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Officer Safety: A Detriment to Society?

In today’s society, there seems to be an emerging trend of distrust related to police officers, where the public often feels that the police overstep their bounds and exercise poor judgment. I think most people would agree that there is inherent danger in the practice of police work, and that as a matter of public policy we want our officers to be safe. However, the question that keeps presenting itself in the news is: are the current laws we have protecting officer safety actually causing harm to citizens?

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Digital Service of Process: Turning to Social Media

Technology has historically outpaced the law. The prevalence of social media throughout society indicates an inherent ability to transition methods of Service of Process in the near future. Given social media’s rapid technological advances in other fields, perhaps it will find its place within the framework of the legal system. There are already precedents being set.

After defendant Gökhan Örün, who is allegedly located in Turkey could not be located and served personally or by letter, the plaintiff, WhosHere, offered to serve process on Örün by email and through the social networking sites, Facebook and LinkedIn. On February 20th, 2014, U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas Rawles Jones, Jr. (Eastern District of Virginia) authorized a first-ever Service of Process by social media. Judge Jones held that, since Turkey “has not specifically objected to service by email or social media networking sites which are not explicitly listed as means of service,” under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 4(f)(3) email, Facebook, and LinkedIn were reasonable methods of delivering the summons and complaint.

Friday, October 3, 2014

No Such Thing as Behind Closed Doors: How Technology Has Outdated the Third-Party Doctrine

Most people would agree with the assertion that if you want to keep something private, then you just shouldn’t tell anyone! And that is just the rule that the Supreme Court developed in Katz v. United States when it contemplated matters that are not considered “private,” in regards to the Fourth Amendment. The Court stated that “what a person knowingly exposes to the public . . . . is not a subject of Fourth Amendment protection.” A little over a decade later, the Court expanded this notion in Smith v. Maryland to create the third-party doctrine, which states that “a person has no legitimate expectation of privacy in information he voluntarily turns over to third parties.” The idea behind the doctrine is that citizens should take steps to protect their privacy or to preserve their secrets; and if a citizen puts their personal information out to another party (usually a business with the third-party doctrine), then that information is obviously not private—and more importantly, it is not protected under the Fourth Amendment from government intrusion.