Category Archives: Criminal Liability

e-Discovery California: Brown Cancels Leno

Continuing what many privacy advocates will see as a disturbing trend against 4th Amendment protections in the state of California (and elsewhere), Governor Brown has vetoed the ‘Leno’ bill, SB 914.  The bill would have required the government to obtain a warrant to search a cellular device upon an arrest.  This follows on the heels of the Supreme Court of the United States declining to grant review of the Diaz case.

In another California case, the 2nd District Court of Appeal cited Diaz in upholding the warrantless search of a digital camera.

These days, if you blink, you may miss another decision affecting the concept of privacy in the United States.

Case Got Your Tongue? I Plead the Fourth!

MP910220941 If things continue like this, we're not going to know what the 4th Amendment stands for, anymore.  In my neck of the woods, a three-judge panel from the 6th District Court of Appeals for California extended the authority that SCOTUS granted in Diaz.  In People v. Nottoli (H035902) [warning: link opens 38-page pdf], the Court summoned the previous 'container' argument and ruled that during an inventory search incident to a lawful arrest, a cellular device (in this case, a Blackberry) found in a glove compartment was fair game for a warrantless search.

What result if Nottoli had password-protected his device?

While California appears to be loosening 4th Amendment protections further, other jurisdictions are tightening them.  In United States v. Musgrove, 2011 WL 4356521 (E.D.Wis. 2011) (Joseph, M.J.), the mere movement of a mouse/touching of a keyboard was enough to trigger an illegal search ruling.  How?  Defendant's PC's screen-saver was enabled.  Nothing was visible to officers who responded to D's home to investigate the possibility of criminal behavior.  By either touching the mouse or keyboard, an officer brought the device out of screen-saver mode, revealing a Facebook wall containing incriminating evidence, resulting in D's arrest.

Citing the 'Plain View' exception, the Court reasoned that, had the Facebook wall been visible, no violation would have occurred.  However, once the officer manipulated the mouse or keyboard to reveal the page, this constituted an illegal search.

What result if Musgrove had password-protected his device?

The dichotomy between these two cases is that the former was a search incident to a lawful arrest and the latter was a search resulting in a lawful arrest (according to facts, I'm giving the officers the benefit of the doubt because only the search was ruled unlawful, not the arrest – yet).

Why does this interest me?  Anyone who has used a Blackberry knows that, under normal circumstances, the device goes into sleep mode and one must manipulate a key, the trackball or the trackpad to bring it out of that mode.

I suspect that plenty more fact-specific arguments are on the horizon…

e-Discovery California: How am I Behaving? Text 800-IM-DRUNK

MP900443394 A bunch of people get together on a Saturday night.  They drink beer.  They drink more beer.  At last call, wanting to keep the buzz going, they order two more beers – and guzzle them.  Somebody looks at somebody else sideways and a fight breaks out.  And so it goes at the local pub?

Yes, but so it also goes at the local baseball diamond, etc.  "I went to the fights and a hockey game broke out!"

Now, California Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-L.A.) wants to establish a new law that would beef up penalties for fan misbehavior at sporting events.  It would also fund a reward-based program to encourage fans to report other fans.  Here's why I think this is a misguided idea:

  1. Ever heard of Crime Stoppers, et al?  Mechanisms already exist for reporting crimes.
  2. Why is this venue singled out?  Because it's on the news?

A more reasonable approach, among others, is the method adopted by some teams that enables fans to text information about incidents directly to security personnel.

The minute one introduces pay-for-play to the mix, the potential for abuse increases.

Heck…next you'll tell me they're gonna pay kids to go to school!

e-Discovery California: Predictive Policing or e-Profiling?

MC900056374 Please note; I didn't say racial profiling…

I was some kind of Twitter-maniac this weekend.  Normally, I don't tweet a lot of articles because I don't think it's the best use of the discipline, but it seemed like every time I turned around, I was reading interesting pieces about technology, security, evidence, law or the economy (as it pertains to us) that I thought would be of interest.  If you're one of my followers (how creepy-sounding is that?!), I hope you'll check them out.

This article begs further examination, however.  The police force in Santa Cruz, California is experimenting with using mathematics to predict where crime hots spots will occur – then deploying resources to those likely hot spots.

I wrote about this back in January.  It kind of takes on the pathology of the movie, Minority Report.  At the time, I said, "We don’t arrest people for crimes they haven’t committed, yet."  We still don't; but it sure would be convenient to be in the vicinity waiting for them when they do.

In theory, it seems like a great tool – using history of prior crimes to predict future ones; but it was the following comment by a patrol officer that raised my eyebrow (just one, mind you):

"[The program] doesn't give me legal reason to arrest somebody just for being in my hot spot, but it gives me good reason to stop and ask what they are doing,"

My question in response to that statement is, "No, it doesn't give you legal reason to arrest somebody, but does it give you reasonable suspicion?"

It's a rhetorical question because, absent any additional facts, we can't really answer.  However, I know one person who would definitely be asking it; a good defense attorney.

Don’t Have a Cow, Man!

MP900178988 Barely a week after I posted about riots, the use of social media and the Brandenburg Standard, we get San Francisco riots (or should I say, "protests"), BART's attempts to prevent the use of social media and an acrimonious debate about the Brandenburg Standard.

But I'm a lawyer and as such, I look at the facts on the ground.  Is social media being used as a vehicle to incite imminent lawless action (not the peaceful variety, after all, one may break the law in a peaceful manner)?  Does the "state" have a compelling interest to protect the public?  Is jamming cell signals within the limited range of the stations a reasonable response to a perceived imminent threat?  Is there a private/public argument to be made?

We argue; judges decide.

Here's one I didn't see discussed; the authorities may have done the rioters a favor – in a backwards capacity.  After all, in the process of preventing communication between potential wrong-doers, they may have prevented themselves from collecting electronic evidence that might have ultimately led to identifying and prosecuting those same wrong-doers.

If only it were that simple.  This assumes, for example, that outgoing text messages timed out.  Depending on the device – and the network it communicates with – if the user reconnected to the network before that happened…

e-Evidence Insights: Social Media Doesn’t Distinguish Between Good and Bad Riots

Rockem_Sockem_Robots In the "Be careful what you wish for!" category, first we had the Arab Spring, which was considered to be a positive development for the Middle East – in the West, anyway.  Now we have the UK riots – and the reaction is entirely the opposite.

With the Arab Spring, social media was hailed as a catalyst to facilitate needed change.  And with the UK riots?  Social media is being disparaged as – you guessed it – a catalyst to facilitate anarchy.

That's the problem with revolutions; perspective is skewed based on which side of them you're on.

What's more interesting to me is the difference between the vehicles of change.  With the Arab Spring, it was Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.  With the UK riots, it's Blackberry Messenger (as if Blackberry doesn't have enough public-relations issues right now, including losing yours truly as a customer).

What's driving this decision?  Economics, for one (Blackberries are cheaper in that region) and secrecy (BBM is private).  I don't want to belabor the point – people died in both riots – but we should endeavor to understand these issues.

If this were happening in the United States, we'd be arguing whether this was a Constitutional violation of the Brandenburg standard.  And while we argued, the FBI would be accumulating electronic evidence.

You may consider yourself to be on the 'right' side of the revolution, but make no mistake; either way, someone is tracking you.  This will make a big difference if, in the end, you find yourself on the 'wrong' side.

#eDiscovery California: AB 141: “Fresh” Approach makes Juror Texts & Tweets a Misdemeanor!

MP900442445 California is putting its money where my mouth is and is enacting AB 141, authored by Assemblyman Felipe Fuentes (D-Sylmar) and signed by Governor Brown yesterday.  It codifies the already-existing rule that juror texting or tweeting – or any other electronic communication in relation to an existing case – is a violation of duty.  But effective January 1, 2012, a juror caught doing so is chargeable with a misdemeanor.

Technically, judges could most likely do so right now under their general ‘contempt’ power, but, as we’ve seen with electronic discovery rules, this specifically targets and clarifies the rules as they apply to electronic misconduct.

I’m firmly in the camp that believes there must be harsh (or more harsh) penalties for juror mischief if we have any hope of maintaining the integrity of the legal process (some will probably say we’re too late).  This is a good start.

And for anyone who believes a judge wouldn’t dare impose such a penalty?  Any lawyer who’s spent time in a few California courtrooms will tell you plainly; you’re wrong!

Cascades: Good for Mountains, Bad for News Orgs

MP900438949 First things first.  My beloved Cubs rewarded my visit with a 13-3 loss to the Marlins, marking this as the most lopsided score over the 15+ years I’ve been making this journey.  Now, firmly ensconced in San Francisco – and with my state bar duties dispensed with for the week – we can return to more pressing matters…

How many of the execs swallowed up in the News of the World Scandal thought they’d ever be arrested in their lifetimes?  None.  In fact, a high percentage of the general public would agree with them.  But people-who-you-normally-wouldn’t-expect-to-be-arrested are arrested.  And some of them eventually go to jail.

While you watch the slow and painful erosion of the Murdoch empire – and the collateral damage causally connected to it – I hope you consider one ingredient to add to your schadenfreude; you’re watching a large-scale version of how your criminal or civil matter will unfold if you don’t deal with it when it’s manageable.

Of course, yours won’t likely be this big or this public – or this expensive – but this is how it’ll start; a molehill that, over time, grows into a mountain.  Or, in this case, a mountain range.  eDiscovery rules & regulations, litigation readiness programs and early case assessment are all designed to staunch the bleeding and, if instituted early enough, prevent the wound altogether.

You have to be willing to take the pain.  Like they always say, the first cut is the deepest.

e-Evidence Insights: Casey Anthony & the #eDiscovery Connection

MP900423019 The last thing I want to do is harp on the Casey Anthony trial; more than is necessary to make my point, anyway.  I only want to discuss one item; the verdict.  Is there an eDiscovery connection?  Yes, if you look at cases holistically and not by their parts.  I see people get so wrapped up in the minutia of what we do, they forget that ultimately, this thing may go to trial!

Why's this important?  Because you can be very successful at the eDiscovery portion – and still lose.  If this case proved anything, it's that anyone who thinks they can handicap a jury is smoking crack.  That goes for you, too, Nancy Grace!

One thing that always adds a wild-card to the deliberations – and this was clearly cited in one of the juror interviews – when the element of it being a capital case is added to the mix, individuals are reticent to be the ones to sign the death warrant, even if they're absolutely certain of guilt (and they weren't even close, here).

It's still a marathon to the finish line, but always bear in mind, eDiscovery is just a single watering-station.

News of the World Buries the eDiscovery Lede: Spoliation

For those who aren't familiar with the term, "burying the lede" refers to an article that fails to express the most important issue in the 1st sentence or paragraph.

Obviously, by now you've heard about the News of the World phone-hacking scandal.  If you're an eDiscovery professional, then you'll find the lede buried all the way in paragraph nineteen:

"On Saturday, the Guardian newspaper, which has led the reporting on the scandal, said Scotland Yard was investigating evidence that a News International executive may have deleted millions of internal e-mails to obstruct the phone-hacking probe. The company denies the allegation." [italics/bold added]

If the allegation turns out to be true, I only have one question.  When will they ever learn?