Category Archives: 4th Amendment

Unbridled Discretion: Should Warrantless Searches of Cell Phones be Permitted Under the Fourth Amendment?

Unbridled Discretion: Should Warrantless Searches of Cell Phones be Permitted Under the Fourth Amendment?

By Lacy Triplett

In relevant portion, the Fourth Amendment provides people “the right…to be secure in their persons…and effects, against unreasonable searches, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause…”[1] Although the Fourth Amendment states that searches of persons and their effects must be conducted pursuant to a warrant, there are certain exceptions to that rule.[2] One common exception is a search incident to arrest, which as stated in Chimel v. California permits a police officer to search an arrestee’s person and the area within the arrestee’s immediate control.[3] The Chimel Court rooted the search incident to arrest exception in two justifications: (1) the need to protect an officer’s safety and (2) the need to prevent the arrestee from destroying evidence.[4]

In addition to searching the arrestee’s person, any items or containers on the arrestee’s person at the time of the arrest or within the arrestee’s reaching distance may be searched incident to the arrest.[5] The exception has been used for decades to uphold the warrantless searches of a variety of objects, such as pagers, wallets, and address books.[6] Yet the law is in flux in regard to warrantless searches of cell phones. Various circuits have decided the issue with the majority of those courts holding that cell phones are permitted to be searched incident to arrest under varying Fourth Amendment jurisprudence.[7] Despite the variance among the circuit courts, the Supreme Court will soon settle the split and provide police officers with an easy and practical rule to apply in the field.

On April 29, 2014, the United States Supreme Court will hear oral arguments regarding whether the Fourth Amendment requires police officers to obtain a search warrant prior to searching an individual’s cell phone incident to his lawful arrest.[8] The Court will hear United States v Wurie and its companion case, Riley v. California, both of which involve cell phone searches with the former being a flip-phone cell phone and the latter being a smartphone.[9]

United States v. Wurie

An officer was performing routine surveillance in Boston when he noticed Wurie and another individual engaged in what the officer believed to be a drug sale in a convenience store parking lot.[10] Wurie drove off in his car, while the officer and another member of the Boston Police Department stopped the other individual and found two plastic bags of crack cocaine in his pocket.[11] The individual stated he bought the crack cocaine from Wurie and noted that Wurie lived in South Boston.[12] Wurie was later arrested for distributing crack cocaine.[13] When Wurie subsequently arrived at the police station, two cell phones were taken from him as well as a set of keys and a large sum of cash.[14] Prior to being booked, one of Wurie’s cell phones received repeated calls from a number listed as “my house.”[15] The officers then opened Wurie’s cell phone to check his call log, and as soon as the officers opened the phone they saw Wurie’s wallpaper, which was a picture of a young black woman holding a baby.[16] The officers were able to determine the phone number associated with the caller ID for “my house,” which led them to an address where Wurie’s car was parked when he was arrested.[17] The officers then took the keys they confiscated from Wurie and went to the address associated with “my house” where the officers saw a woman who resembled the photograph on Wurie’s cell phone wallpaper.[18] Once at the apartment, the officers entered and “froze” it while they obtained a search warrant.[19] Upon receipt of the warrant, the officers seized cocaine and marijuana, guns, ammunition, and cash.[20]

The United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts denied Wurie’s motion to suppress the evidence officers obtained from searching his cell phone.[21] The First Circuit held that the officers’ search of Wurie’s cell phone was a violation of the Fourth Amendment, and specifically stated “warrantless cell phone data searches are categorically unlawful under the search-incident-to-arrest exception, given the government’s failure to demonstrate that they are ever necessary to promote officer safety or prevent the destruction of evidence.”[22] The First Circuit continued by stating that the Supreme Court, when it decided the cases which set forth the search incident to arrest exception, “could not have envisioned a world a world in which the vast majority of arrestees would be carrying on their person an item containing not physical evidence but a vast store of tangible data—data that is not immediately destructible and poses no threat to the arresting officers.”[23] In reversing the district court, the First Circuit stated, “warrantless cell phone data searches strike us as a convenient way for the police to obtain information related to a defendant’s crime of arrest…without having to secure a warrant. We find nothing in the Supreme Court’s search-incident-to-arrest jurisprudence that sanctions such a ‘general evidence-gathering search.’”[24]

Riley v. California

Riley was suspected in a gang shooting and was stopped in his vehicle by officers.[25] A subsequent search of his car revealed two handguns, which were forensically tied to the earlier shooting.[26] Riley was arrested and his cell phone was seized; his cell phone records showed that his phone was used near the shooting location around the time the shooting occurred and contained pictures of Riley making gang signs.[27] The trial court denied Riley’s motion to suppress the evidence from his vehicle search and from his cell phone search.[28]

People v. Diaz, a California Supreme Court case, controlled the Court of Appeals for the Fourth District’s ruling.[29] Diaz held that warrantless searches of cell phones were permissible because attempting to define a container as “worthy” or “unworthy” exceeded the bounds of the Fourth Amendment.[30] The California Supreme Court further stated that the storage capacity of an item was irrelevant.[31] Riley followed the precedent set forth by Diaz, and resulted in the Fourth District affirming the denial of Riley’s motion to suppress.

Possible Outcomes

Hopefully, the Court will issue a concrete ruling after it hears oral arguments on the issue of whether a search warrant is needed before officers search an arrestee’s cell phone, which will provide guidance to police officers. The Court may take the approach of the majority of circuit courts and find that a cell phone is a container, which can be searched incident to arrest so long as the search is limited in scope and contemporaneous to the arrest. Or, the Court may take the approach of the First Circuit in Wurie and find that the privacy interests in an individual’s cell phone greatly outweigh the government’s need to immediately search a cell phone without first securing a warrant. The Court may take other approaches and rule that officers are only permitted to seize cell phones incident to arrest and are prohibited from searching them until there is a warrant. Another approach is that officers can only search cell phones when there is reason to believe that there is evidence of the crime on the cell phone, which falls in line with the Court’s recent decision in Arizona v. Gant.[32] Whatever ruling the Court chooses to adopt will have a substantial impact on police officers and citizens alike, either by significantly restricting the types of searches that can be performed or by significantly imposing on an individual’s privacy rights.

[1] U.S. Const. amend. IV.

[2] United States v. Robinson, 414 U.S. 218, 224 (1973).

[3] 395 U.S. 752, 762–63 (1969).

[4] Id.

[5] United States v. Curtis, 635 F.3d 704, 711–12 (5th Cir. 2011).

[6] See United States v. Ortiz, 84 F.3d 977, 984 (7th Cir. 1996); United States v. Watson, 669 F.2d 1374, 1384 (11th Cir. 1982); United States v. Rodriguez, 995 F.2d 776, 778 (7th Cir. 1993).

[7] See Silvan W. v. Briggs, 309 F. App’x 216 (10th Cir. 2009); United States v. Finley, 477 F.3d 250 (5th Cir. 2007); United States v. Flores-Lopez, 670 F.3d 803 (7th Cir. 2012); United States v. Murphy, 553 F.3d 405 (4th Cir. 2009).

[8] United States v. Wurie, SCOTUSblog, http://www.scotusblog.com/case-files/cases/united-states-v-wurie.

[9] Greg Stohr, Mobile-Phone Searches by Police Get Top U.S. Court Review, Bloomberg, (Jan 17, 2014) http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-01-17/mobile-phone-searches-by-police-get-top-u-s-court-review.html.

[10] United States v. Wurie, 728 F.3d 1,1 (1st Cir. 2013).

[11] Id.

[12] Id.

[13] Id. at 2.

[14] Id.

[15] Id.

[16] Wurie, 728 F.3d at 2.

[17] Id.

[18] Id.

[19] Id.

[20] Id.

[21] Id.

[22] Wurie, 728 F.3d at 12.

[23] Id. at 12.

[24] Id. at 13.

[25] People v. Riley, D059840, 2013 WL 475242 (Cal. App. 4th Dist. Feb. 8, 2013).

[26] Id. at *1.

[27] Id. at *2.

[28] Id.

[29] Id. at 6.

[30] People v. Diaz, 244 P.3d 501, 507 (Cal. 2011).

[31] Id. at 95.

[32] 556 U.S. 332 (2009).

The Obsolescence of the Common Law and the Rise of the Exclusionary Rule in Light of Supreme Court Originalism: A Glimpse at the Evolution of the Fourth Amendment

The Obsolescence of the Common Law and the Rise of the Exclusionary Rule in Light of Supreme Court Originalism: A Glimpse at the Evolution of the Fourth Amendment

By: John J. Gamble

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”[1]

Fourth Amendment interpretation has long been complicated by its relative vagueness[2] and the unique structure of its two clauses, the second of which textually seems to only concern the issuance of proper warrants. In the context of searches, the Court has long conflated the two clauses such that “reasonableness” governs the entirety of the Amendment’s text. The mixing of the two clauses beneath the reasonableness standard has facilitated the Court’s modern jurisprudence by allowing for the creation of the Amendment’s most salient feature, the Exclusionary Rule. This article intends to briefly address the historical validity of the Rule, and alternatives to it, particularly in light of recent Court precedent utilizing what is a seemingly historical analysis of the roots of the Fourth Amendment.[3]

The general account of the Amendment’s origins begins with colonial anger over the use of general warrants by Imperial customs officials in years before the War for Independence.[4] Later, once the federal constitution was promulgated, antifederalists feared that the distant central government proposed by the Constitution would emulate the British Crown and invade the homes of its citizens without a care for their sacrosanct property.[5] Because of this fear the Fourth Amendment was placed in the Bill of Rights to ensure ratification. Because of the Amendment’s aforementioned vagueness, even when compared to other constitutional guaranties, some scholars have charged that the Amendment is incompetently drafted.[6] Others have suggested that in reality the Amendment was meant only to require that warrants be drafted with exacting particularity to avoid the abuses that had occurred before the war.[7] If this latter assertion is correct then the framers must not have been concerned with warrantless searches at all. This lack of concern for warrantless searches may derive from the form law enforcement took in the Eighteenth Century. Early America was largely rural, and there were no modern police bureaucracies; the common law treated low ranking judicial officers with disdain.[8]

Regardless, it does seem clear that the framers were not interested in the ordinary criminal searches and seizures that fill “thousands of pages of our law reports today.”[9] First, the text of the Constitution[10] itself and the ratification debates tell us that a great deal of concern centered on the new government abusing its taxing power.[11] Second, prior to the Fourteenth Amendment and the Doctrine of Incorporation, the Fourth Amendment applied only to the actions of the Federal Government, which in the Early Republic was quite a small operation.[12] The size of the new federal government meant that very few crimes that we associate with the Fourth Amendment today were even illegal under federal law. Obviously narcotic crimes did not exists at all, but even larceny, robbery and murder were almost completely in the sole province of the states, and thus there would have been no need to limit the power of federal officers in regards to those crimes.[13] Third, given the previous two reasons it is also plausible that the framers would not have generally been concerned in protecting petty criminals from what the modern Court would consider an unlawful search.[14] Their chief goal was simply the restraint of federal power.

Now the reader might wonder what happened in the Early Republic or in England if a peace officer conducted a warrantless search that turned up nothing. While there is some scholarly disagreement, it seems likely that the framers meant to leave the difficulty of unreasonable searches in seizure to be solved by the ancient law of trespass.[15] This is where we come to the Court’s role in search and seizure doctrine. In the early Nineteenth Century, trespass actions for unlawful seizures continued to be common. In fact, in this country’s early years the Court ruthlessly allowed federal officers to be forced to pay tort damages for illegal seizures even when following orders from the President.[16] Thus, qualified immunity[17] as we know it today would have been unacceptable to the early Court because the Court felt the “enumeration principle prevents an unconstitutional act from being ‘legalized.’”[18] Unsurprisingly, the tort system of remedies declined in its usefulness as American society grew increasingly urbanized and interconnected. The need for investigative police work, the increase in unsympathetic plaintiffs pursuing common law remedies, the rise of police use of surveillance technology that had no common law remedy, and the dwindling of state political supremacy following the Civil War,[19] all served to render the old common law trespass remedy outdated.[20]  The Court, through some creative reimagining of the interplay between evidence rules and property law,[21] evolved the Exclusionary Rule as a new search and seizure remedy, though, the Court did not entirely abandon a property based mode of analysis for restrictions on searches and seizures until 1967 in Warden v. Hayden.[22]

Today, the Court has created the Exclusionary Rule to fill the shoes of the old common law remedies.[23] This has baffled some scholars who noted that the Rule led to an “explosion of rights” that never previously existed, as the Exclusionary Rule may allow guilty criminals to have evidence suppressed based on “unconstitutional” conduct on the part of the seizing officers. Though the Court originally treated the Exclusionary Rule as an outcome mandated by the Constitution itself,[24] this assertion has been undermined by recent case law, creating several exceptions to the rule.[25] Interestingly, however, though the Court has made no clear move to abandon the Exclusionary Rule in favor of a return to the common law remedies, several pluralities of recent Fourth Amendment decisions seem once again interested in the origins of the Fourth Amendment, particularly in a property based analysis of the scope of rights protected by the Amendment.[26]

Other alternatives exist that could either run alongside the Exclusionary Rule, reduce its importance, or entirely replace it. For instance, the Court could announce that a common law remedy like trespass or replevin is constitutionally required for a search and seizure violation.[27] Of course, such a remedy might prove problematic for administrative reasons. For instance, could the states cap the damages for these constitutional violations or have differing immunity doctrines for their officers? The Court could simply require that the states have some sort of basic remedy that the Court will presume acceptable absent serious evidence to the contrary. Another option would be to limit the scope of unreasonable searches by using common law era property concepts, as Justice Scalia has attempted, though in some circumstances it is not clear that this would deliver a substantially different result from the “reasonable expectation” of privacy standard developed in Katz v. United States.[28]

Regardless of the path the Court might choose, this article is meant only to briefly illuminate the founder’s world of searches and seizures in an attempt to suggest that, while perhaps, the Exclusionary Rule is a useful Fourth Amendment remedy, it is by no means required by the text or demanded by history. Constitutional purists want the Rule axed as an extra-judicial remedy because, as previously noted, the Fourth Amendment was rooted in the property concerns of the founding generation; the Amendment only incidentally protected privacy.[29] Pragmatists may be interested in other modes of fulfilling the Fourth Amendment’s protections because they see the Exclusionary Rule as excessively shielding the guilty. If members of the Court are interested in Fourth Amendment originalism then inquiries should be further made into the historical overlap between the common law and what the Fourth Amendment was meant to protect.[30] A deeper examination suggests that though society has changed considerably since 1791, forays into the searches and seizures of Fourth Amendment past may provide seemingly new ways to tackle an age-old problem.


[1] U.S. Const. amend. IV.

[2] George C. Thomas III, Stumbling Towards History: The Framer’s Search and Seizure World, 43 Tex. Tech L. Rev. 199, 203

[3] See, e.g., United States v. Jones, 132 S.Ct. 945 (2012); Florida v. Jardines, 133 S.Ct. 1409 (2013).

[4] See Thomas Y. Davies, Can You Handle the Truth? . . ., 43 Tex. Tech L. Rev 51, 59 (2010) (noting also that the Founders were enamored with Lord Camden’s words condemning the use of general warrants in England during King George’s attempted suppression of political opponents).

[5] Thomas, supra note 2, at 207-208 (recounting Patrick Henry’s fear of a multitude of excisemen descending upon the citizenry). Modern Americans would likely be surprised how much the protection of property rights factored into early Anglo-American political theory. See id. at 221.

[6] See Davies, 61

[7] Thomas, supra note 2, at 205.

[8] Davies, Recovering the Original Fourth Amendment, 98 Mich. L. Rev. 547, 577-578 (1999) (“[the framers] were unconcerned with warrantless intrusions because they did not perceive ordinary officers as possessing any significant discretionary authority at common law to initiate arrests or searches”); see also Thomas, supra note 2, at 200-201 (noting the differences between the modern “paramilitary investigative operation” and the Eighteenth Century constable who could generally only arrests persons for disturbing the peace in their presence or for felonies committed in fact, and constables practically never investigated crime).

[9] Thomas, supra note 2, at 206.

[10] U.S. Const. art. 1. (granting Congress the power to create excise taxes, and also requiring their uniformity throughout the country).

[11] Thomas, supra note 2, at 207-208.

[12] Id. at 208.

[13] Id.

[14] Id.

[15] Id; See also Sina Kian, The Path of the Constitution: The Original System of Remedies, 87 N.Y.U. L. Rev. 132, 145 (2012) (noting the importance in early American jurisprudence of Entick v. Carrington, an English case in which Crown officers were required to pay exorbitant sums in damages for seizing the “sedition papers” of English radical John Wilkes).

[16] See Little v. Barreme, 2 Cranch 170, 178-179 (1804) (Marshall, J.) (holding officer liable for damages when unconstitutionally intercepting a warship though he had orders from the President to that effect.) Unfortunately for the officer the President had misconstrued the statute. See id.

[17] See generally Pearson v. Callahan, 555 U.S. 223 (2009) (discussing modern application of qualified immunity).

[18] Kian, supra note 15, at 147.

[19] Id. at 162-163.

[20] Id. at 150.

[21] Id. at 170-171 (arguing that Weeks v. United States, though often thought of as heralding in the new era of the Exclusionary Rule, was actually a product of the idea that a rule of evidence could not confer a property right); see also Weeks, 232 U.S. 383, 393-396 (1914) (holding that improperly seized evidence is due to be returned to the defendant upon his application for return in “due season.”)

[22] Thomas, supra note 2, at 223; see also Warden, 387 U.S. 294, 305 (1967) (“Searches and seizures may be ‘unreasonable’ within the Fourth Amendment even though the Government asserts a superior property interest at common law. We have recognized that the principal object of the Fourth Amendment is the protection of privacy rather than property . . .”

[23] See generally Weeks, 232 U.S. 383; Mapp v. Ohio, 367 U.S. 643 (1963) (applying the Exclusionary Rule against the states).

[24] See Mapp, 367 U.S. at 649 (. . . “[t]he Weeks rule is of constitutional origin.”)

[25] See, e.g., United States v. Leon, 468 U.S. 897 (1984) (creating Good Faith exception to warrant requirement); Massachusetts v. Sheppard, 468 U.S. 981 (1984) (allowing introduction of evidence derived from a search using a boilerplate narcotics warrant for a homicide investigation because law enforcement reasonable relied upon the magistrate issuing the warrant); see also Leon, 468 U.S. at 939  (Brennan, J., dissenting) (arguing that the Exclusionary Rule was not just a judicial remedy but one required by “direct constitutional command”).

[26] See, e.g., Jardines, 133 S.Ct. at 1414-1415 (Scalia, J.) (rooting his analysis of using a drug dog to search the curtilage of a house in property principles deriving from Blackstone and the Framers); Wyoming v. Houghton, 526 U.S. 295, 300 (1999) (Scalia, J.) (“We inquire first whether the action was regarded as an unlawful search or seizure under the common law when the Amendment was framed”).

[27] Kian, supra note 15, at 201.

[28] 389 U.S. 347, 360 (Harlan, J., concurring).

[29] Thomas, supra note 2, at 221.

[30] Of course, even what the Amendment should protect is in the eye of the beholder, as Justice Scalia’s focus on property rights suggests.

Reasonable Expectations of Privacy in Fourth Amendment Search and Seizures

Will Harris, Junior Editor, Alabama Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Law Review

Will Harris, Junior Editor, Alabama Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Law Review

By Will Harris, Junior Editor

          The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution protects citizens against unreasonable searches and seizures by the government, stating, “[t]he  right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures shall not be violated.”[1] One of the main issues that arises when dealing with a search and seizure is whether or not the government conducted a search, and if not, whether or not the evidence obtained by the governments actions are admissible as evidence in criminal trials. As technology and means of communication and interactions have changed, the lines have become more and more blurred as to what constitutes a search by the police, as old rules seem to no longer apply, or are difficult to apply to modern modes of technology.

            For a long time, the Court’s analysis of where or not there was a “search” was closely linked to the common law principles of trespass, and required some sort of physical intrusion.[2] In Kyllo, the police used heat sensing devices, without a warrant, to obtain evidence that the defendant was growing marijuana inside his home.[3] The Court determined that this did not constitute a search under the Fourth Amendment as there was not physical intrusion into the house and that this was simply an “off –the-wall” observation.[4] However, while the physical intrusion test is still used when there is clearly a trespass, in cases where a trespass is more uncertain, courts have developed a reasonable expectation of privacy analysis.[5] In Katz v. United States, the courts ruled that a violation occurred when the police obtained evidence through a wiretap placed on top of a public pay phone.[6] The Court in Katz reasoned that the defendant in Katz exhibited an actual expectation of privacy and that the expectation was reasonable, and therefore the government had conducted a search when they obtained evidence through the wiretap.[7] The Court said that Kyllo complied with Katz, because the evidence obtained in Kyllo was evidence that could also have been obtained through simple observation, for example, they could have simply seen snow melting at different rates on different points of the house indicating higher temperatures at those areas, which would have been consistent with the use of heat lamps to grow marijuana.[8]

In 2012, the Supreme Court decided United States v. Jones,[9] in which the court again used the trespass analysis exhibited in Kyllo. In Jones, the defendant was the owner of a nightclub, and was suspected of trafficking in narcotics.[10] In order to obtain evidence the police placed a GPS monitoring device on the defendant’s Jeep while it was parked in a public parking lot, and then monitored the vehicle’s movement over the next 28 days.[11] Although all members of the court agreed that this tactic constituted a search, and because it was not consistent with a search warrant the evidence was illegally obtained, the Justices were split as to the reasoning of why this constituted a search.[12] The government argued that no search had occurred, because there is no reasonable expectation of privacy to the area of the car where the GPS was placed, because it was placed on the outside of the car.[13]Four Justices however, agreed with Justice Scalia, saying that this was a search because it constituted a trespass on personal property.[14] In a concurring opinion, four Justices, while agreeing with the outcome, argued that it was wrong to base the reasoning on 18th century tort law.[15] This concurring opinion reasoned that this did constitute a search in violation of the Fourth Amendment; however, it did so using the “reasonable expectation of privacy” analysis presented in Katz.[16]

Justice Sotomayor delivered the deciding vote on which line of reasoning would be used in the outcome of United States v. Jones.In her concurring opinion, Justice Sotomayor agreed with the opinion written by Justice Scalia, saying that a search had occurred where “the Government obtains information by physically intruding on a constitutionally protected area.”[17] Therefore, the reasoning used in determining that the use of GPS to track the movement of a car was in violation of the Fourth Amendment was that it was a physical intrusion by the government and therefore a trespass. With increasing technology, this leaves many areas up to debate as to whether or not the government will be able to use information gained through different technology when not in compliance with a search warrant. For example, in Jones, the GPS used by the government was placed on the car by the government; however, many cars now come equipped with GPS devices that monitor cars movements. If the government gained information through a GPS device which the car owner knows is operating in the car, then there is clearly no physical intrusion. The question then would become whether or not this constituted a violation of a person’s reasonable expectation of privacy. Justice Alito’s concurring opinion clearly indicates that it would be a violation. Justice Alito goes on to discuss the emergence of different types of technology and Fourth Amendment issues they may pose, for example, cell phones and wireless devices that track the locations of the users. The concurring opinion suggests that the idea of a reasonable expectation of privacy will be constantly changing, stating “[t]he availability and use of these and other new devices will continue to shape the average person’s expectation about the privacy of his or her daily movements.”[18] Justice Sotomayor’s concurring opinion, although she agreed with the trespass reasoning in this case, seems to suggest that even in cases where the individual knows their movements or phone records are being monitored, that there still may be a violation of a reasonable expectation of privacy. Justice Sotomayor states, “[m]ore fundamentally, it may be necessary to reconsider the premise that an individual has no reasonable expectation of privacy in the information voluntarily disclosed to third parties.”[19] From the dicta presented in the concurring opinions it appears that in the future, at least with respect to tracking a person’s movement, individuals would still have a reasonable expectation of privacy in things like GPS records, and therefore the government would need a warrant to obtain evidence from that information, however, that expectation of privacy may be changing with the emergence of new technology.

A further issue with the reasonable expectation of privacy arises with the ever changing methods of social media. There are numerous examples of police using fake Facebook accounts in order to obtain evidence and make arrests.[20] In these instances, police officers are either searching open Facebook accounts or creating fake profiles to “friend” and gain access to private profile accounts, collecting evidence against suspects in this manner. It would seem that a person would not have a reasonable expectation of privacy with things they place on the internet, especially if they have opened their profile to other profiles, however, Justice Sotomayor, as well as those agreeing with Justice Alito’s concurring opinion, suggest that there still may be some debate as to the degree of privacy a person can expect in these situations.  Of course, all of these situations can be avoided with compliance with a search warrant; however, issues with a person’s reasonable expectation of privacy arise when this information is obtained without a warrant or without complying with a warrant. As these situations become more common, and as technology continues to grow, it will be interesting to see the outcome of cases involving a person’s reasonable expectation of privacy and Fourth Amendment search and Seizures.


[1]U.S. Const. amend. IV

[2]See Kyllo v. United States, 533 U.S. 27 (2001).

[3]Id. at 29.

[4]Id. at 35.

[5]Katz v. United States, 389 U.S. 347 (1967).

[6]Id. at 348.

[7]Id.

[8] 533 U.S. at 43

[9] 132 S. Ct. 945 (2012)

[10]Id. at 948

[11]Id.

[12]Id.

[13]Id. at 950.

[14]Id.

[15]Id. at 957 (Alito, J., concurring).

[16]Id. at 964.

[17]Id. at 954 (Sotomayor, J., concurring).

[18] 132 S.Ct. at 963 (Alito, J., concurring).

[19]Id. at 957 (Sotomayor, J., concurring).

[20] Elliott Jones, Fort Pierce Police use Facebook to Make Burglary Arrest, TCPalm (Jan 18, 2013, 10:16 AM), http://www.tcpalm.com/news/2013/jan/18/fort-pierce-police-use-facebook-to-make-burglary/.

Supreme Court to Decide Cases on Drug-Sniffing Dogs

By: Jim McLeod, Junior Editor

McLeod Pic

On October 31st, 2012, the Supreme Court justices heard oral arguments in two separate cases involving law enforcement’s warrantless use of drug-sniffing dogs. Law enforcement agencies throughout the country have shown an increasing dependency on the use of drug-detecting dogs, and these cases will certainly help to shape the limits on their use.[1]  Both cases are coming from the Florida Supreme Court, and it seems likely that the Court will rule against the warrantless use of drug dogs in one case, but not in the other.

In the first case, the Miami-Dade Police Department received an anonymous tip that Joelis Jardines was growing marijuana inside his home.  A police officer went to Jardines’ home, without a warrant, and allowed a drug-sniffing dog to smell around the front door for a few minutes.  Franky, the chocolate Labrador retriever with an impressive record of discovering drugs, alerted the officer to the smell of drugs inside the home by sitting down.  The police used Franky’s alert as justification to attain a search warrant, and subsequently raided the home where they found more than 25 pounds of marijuana.

The question presented to the Court is whether the police officer’s use of a drug-sniffing dog at a private residence constitutes an “unreasonable search” in violation of the Fourth Amendment.  A decade ago, in Kyllo v. United States, the Court ruled that officers must have a warrant to use thermal-imaging devices outside a home to detect the presence of marijuana, concluding that it amounted to a search.[2]  In that case, the Court stated: “At the very core of the Fourth Amendment stands the right of a man to retreat into his own home and there be free from unreasonable governmental intrusion.  With few exceptions, the question whether a warrantless search of a home is reasonable and hence constitutional must be answered no.”[3]

Howard Blumberg, attorney for Jardines, argued that drug-sniffing dogs are no different from the thermal-imaging devices in that they are “used to explore details of the home that would previously have been unknowable without physical intrusion.”  The Supreme Court justices seemed to agree with Blumberg, noting that if these “searches” were allowed, police could apply the procedure in a discriminatory way by targeting certain areas and sweeping through the neighborhood.

Gregory Garre, attorney for Florida police, argued that there is implied consent for police, salesmen, Girl Scouts or trick-or-treaters to go up to someone’s front door, and that this is no different.  The justices replied that there is no implied consent for a policeman to bring a large animal to sniff around the home for the sole purpose of detecting contraband.

In the second case, a deputy from the Liberty County Sheriff Department in Florida stopped Clayton Harris for an expired license plate on his truck.  Aldo, a German shepherd, sniffed and alerted the officer to the presence of contraband; the officer then searched Harris’ truck and found over 200 pseudoephedrine pills, which can be used to make methamphetamines.  A divided Florida Supreme Court concluded that Aldo’s alert was insufficient to show probable cause, due to questions concerning the dog’s reliability.

In Illinois v. Caballes[4], the Supreme Court upheld the use of a drug-sniffing dog to establish probable cause during a routine traffic stop.  “A dog sniff conducted during a concededly lawful traffic stop that reveals no information other than the location of a substance that no individual has any right to possess does not violate the Fourth Amendment.”[5]

The question presented in the Harris case focuses on whether Aldo’s reliability as a drug-detecting dog is sufficient to show probable cause during a routine traffic stop.  Aldo’s credentials are not quite as impressive as Franky’s; during his career, Franky discovered more than 2.5 tons of marijuana and 80 pounds of cocaine.  Aldo, on the other hand, has received far less training and certification, and has proven to be less reliable in sniffing out drugs.  When drugs are discovered only a fraction of the time after a drug-detecting dog alerts an officer, one of two things is happening: either the alert is not an effective tool in detecting contraband, or the officer is signaling the dog to alert because of the officer’s own suspicions. There are currently no national or state certification standards for drug-detecting dogs, but public defender Glen Gifford urges the justices to consider the dog’s track record in determining the propriety of the search.

Many states have sided with Florida law enforcement officials, stating in an amici brief that “all States have a keen interest in combating illegal drugs” and that “drug-detection dogs play a vital role in these efforts.”[6]  “[T]he Florida Supreme Court’s decision jeopardizes the States’ ability to use this crucial tool to discover illegal drugs prior to their distribution.”[7]

The Obama Administration has also voiced its opinion on the issue: “[T]his Court should reaffirm that the use of a narcotics-detection dog, whether outside a vehicle, a package, or a home, does not infringe legitimate privacy expectations and therefore does not constitute a Fourth Amendment search.”[8]  Both of these cases will have far-reaching implications on the future use of police dogs in discovering contraband in people’s homes and vehicles.  While one case could lead to drug-sniffing canines having full discretion in selecting private homes to be searched, the other could require dogs to put together résumés to establish their reliability in sniffing out illegal drugs. 


[2] Kyllo v. United States, 533 U.S. 27 (2001).

[3] Id. at 31.

[4] Illinois v. Caballes, 543 U.S. 405 (2005).

[5] Id. at 410.

[6] Brief for Texas, et al. as Amici Curiae in Support of Petitioner, Florida v. Jardines (No. 11-564).

[7] Id.

[8] Brief for the United States as Amicus Curiae Supporting Petitioner, Florida v. Jardines (No. 11-564).

Misplaced Outrage: Defending the Supreme Court’s Decision On Inmate Strip Searches

Preston Pope, Junior Editor, The Alabama Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Law Review, Vol. 3

Preston Pope, Junior Editor, The Alabama Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Law Review, Vol. 3

Justice Kennedy and the Strip Searchers,”[i]Embarrass the Future?,”[ii]Strip Searches: The Supreme Court’s Disturbing Decision.”[iii]

This sampling of titles from blogs run on major news sources, along with an endless number of articles with less catchy titles, exhibits what seems to be a united sense of public outrage regarding the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Florence v. Board of Chosen Freeholders of County of Burlington.[iv] The decision confirmed the legality of strip-searching of all individuals taken into custody upon intake into jails, even in the absence of reasonable suspicion. While the decision permits results that are certainly troubling, such as the searching of arrested individuals who may not even be charged with misdemeanors, the outrage of opponents is misplaced towards a correct decision rather than at the underlying problem that placed these individuals in custody in the first place.

The concern is that this decision subjects individuals who have committed nothing more than a misdemeanor to a degrading and unnecessary process.  Indeed, the underlying offense leading to Mr. Florence’s arrest was a failure to pay a fine.  This offense creates absolutely no legitimate concern for officers to suspect him to be concealing weapons or drug contraband. Mr. Florence claimed that an invasive search of inmates, such as himself, without reasonable suspicion constituted an unreasonable search forbidden by the Fourth Amendment.

The process subjected Mr. Florence to shower with delousing soap. While he was undressed, officers checked for scars, marks, gang tattoos, and contraband. He was asked to open his mouth, lift his tongue, hold his arms out, and lift his genitals turn around and cough in a squatting position. All of this is done without touching by jail officials.

This is no doubt a humiliating and embarrassing process.  However, the appropriate standard for reviewing policies comes from the Supreme Court decision Turner v. Safly that says infringing on inmate’s constitutional rights is that it must be upheld “if it is reasonably related to legitimate penological interests.”[v] In other words, jail officials have broad discretion related to the creation of effective prison management and security. The primary concern of the process is maintaining safe and sanitary conditions for inmates. The intake of inmates is a prime source of risks with relation to these concerns. Incoming inmates into general population must be screened for contagious diseases, wounds needing medical attention, and contraband which any one of which would compromise the safety and sanitation of the jail’s general population.

With respect to individuals brought in on minor offenses, there are still concerns of contagious disease, lice and gang-affiliated tattoos that require a full inspection. With respect to inspection for contraband, the only reason to excuse individuals brought in for minor offenses would be if one’s offense is truly a proper indicator of their likelihood to carry contraband.

Particularly with respect to gang-members, it is not far-fetched for a low-ranking member who, for the purpose of this example has no gang tattoos or history of violence, to create reasonable suspicion for inspection, to drive around town at 100 miles per hour until he is arrested and then use smuggled weapons to kill a member of a rival or sneak drugs in for a fellow member serving longer time. Outside of gang-related examples, as Justice Kennedy comments, the seriousness of an offense can be a poor predictor of who has contraband or a tendency for violence. Despite Mr. Florence’s request that officers only inspect an individual who poses a reasonable suspicion, the task of drawing this line is difficult, if not impossible, and the consequences of drawing it incorrectly can be severe.

The difficulty of the task is exhibited by administrative costs, lack of information and fears of racial profiling.  With respect to information, officers often know little about an individual upon taking him into custody.  He may be carrying a fake ID or lie about his identity thus making it difficult to immediately access criminal history.  Additionally, if inspections are not routinely made, then it is difficult to justify any inspections in the absence of an arrest for a drug or violent offense. Outside of inspections upon these motivations, there would likely be claims of officers inspecting based upon an inmate’s race, or, in the alternative, there could be a hesitancy on the part of officers to inspect a reasonably suspicious individual due fear of such claims.

In light of the infeasibility of drawing an appropriate line, the considerable consequences of failing to inspect an individual who poses a threat to the health and safety of the prison population, and the generally broad discretion afforded correctional facilities in forming policies to solve problems, the Supreme Court’s decision is legally correct.

Somehow, the fact that the decision was based upon correct constitutional analysis does little to remove the absurdity of a situation such as a 90-year old grandmother being strip-searched for failing to wear a seat belt or having an expired car registration.  However, the problem lies with the underlying system in which this otherwise law-abiding old lady is put into custody in the first place.

In Atwater v. Lago,[vi] a case cited by the majority, the court allowed for a situation in which individuals arrested for minor offenses might be detained in jails. In an offense even lesser than Mr. Florence’s, Ms. Atwater was arrested for not wearing her seat belt. Despite the fact that this offense could not include jail time, the court found that officers may arrest her upon probable cause that she “committed a criminal offense in their presence.” In the name of investigating the crime, the police could bring her in for a minor crime just easily as for a major one.

According to Justice Kennedy’s opinion, jails alone, not including prisons, admit roughly 13 million inmates a year. Considering this number, it is beneficial for correctional officers to have standard procedures for inspecting inmates. Indeed, it is infeasible and ill-advised to adopt a different approach. The much more reasonable and feasible solution to preventing stories of strip-searching for failure to wear a seat belt is for policy makers to address what are offenses truly merit jail time.

As long as individuals are being brought to jail on minor charges, it is appropriately within the jail’s authority to have flexibility in providing for the inmate’s safety, the safety of the jail population and the correctional officers. While certainly an inmate has a concern of being strip-searched, on the other-hand there is a concern of being thrown into a jail, where other inmates have not been strip-searched.  As Justice Scalia explains it, “the same people who are suing [jails] for the strip search would be suing them for being stabbed by someone with a shiv.”[vii]

Florence v Board of Chosen Freeholders of County of Burlington.

“Justice Kennedy and the Strip Searchers.”  The New Yorker.

“Embarrass the Future?”  New York Times

“Strip Searches: The Supreme Court’s Disturbing Decision” Time

“Siding with Security Needs over Privacy Right” MSNBC

Atwater v. Lago Vista, 532 U.S. 318.

“Scalia Defends Strip Search Decision in USM Talk.”  Clarion Leadger   


[vii] http://www.clarionledger.com/article/20120404/NEWS/120404033/Scalia-defends-strip-search-decision-USM-talk?odyssey=nav%7Chead

Disclaimer: The copyright in each article and post is owned by its respective author. Opinions expressed are those of the respective contributor and not presented as the views of the Alabama Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Law Review, its editors, the University of Alabama School of Law or the University of Alabama Board of Trustees or any other entity not specifically mentioned. All statements on this site belong to its writer. In addition, the views, opinions, and conclusions expressed in this page are those of the author and not necessarily those of The University of Alabama or its officers and trustees. The content of this page has not been reviewed or approved by the University of Alabama, and the author is solely responsible for its content.

“Stand Your Ground”: Strike It Down

Kyle Mathis, Junior Editor, Alabama Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Law Review

Kyle Mathis, Junior Editor, Alabama Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Law Review

On February 26, 2012, an African-American teen named Trayvon Martin was found shot to death in a small community north of Orlando. Who was his killer? George Zimmerman, a 28-year-old leader of the Sanford, FL community watch program; a position he had essentially bestowed upon himself.

Zimmerman remains a free man, protected by a Florida law known by many as a ‘Stand Your Ground’ law. Florida was the first of several states to pass a “Stand Your Ground” law which legally allowed someone to take proactive measures and use deadly force as a means of self-protection outside of their own home (which was the previous, traditional limit for such use of force).[1] Prior to the passage of the 2005 law, an individual faced with a situation which may call for self-defense was legally obligated to first and foremost attempt to flee. Because Zimmerman is able to claim that he suspected that Martin was committing a crime and that he “reasonably” believed that he was in personal danger, (it seems) he has been granted a certain level of immunity from being punished for his actions. This has created a good deal of controversy around the country.

Since the incident, bill sponsor, Former State Senator Durrell Peadon (R) and other members of the Florida legislature have started speaking out against this interpretation of their law.[2] They claim the Florida legislature did not intend this kind of result in passing this bill, but simply intended to provide a measure of self-protection for honest Americans. In fact, representatives have said that if the facts show that the alleged actions of Zimmerman on February 26 are true, then he will find no protection in their law. But that is not really their call anymore, is it? Now the matter is in the hands of the Florida justice system.

One provision of the law in question can be found in §776.013 of the Florida statute.[3] Specifically section (1) reads:

A person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in any other place where he or she has a right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he or she reasonable believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.

A few things jump out about the text of this law and the facts of this situation. First, is the question of whether Zimmerman was even attacked. From what is publicly known about Zimmerman’s conversations with the police, they seem to indicate that, in fact, Zimmerman may have been the one who initiated contact with the teen. The second issue is the use of the ever problematic reasonable belief standard in a statute which allows one individual to end the life of another and potentially go unpunished for this action. Another provision of Florida law, §776.012, gives further possible protection to Zimmerman and reads:

 A person is justified in using force, except deadly force, against another when and to the extent that the person reasonably believes that such conduct is necessary to defend himself or herself against the other’s imminent use of unlawful force. However, a person is justified in the use of deadly force and does not have a duty to retreat if: (1) he or she reasonable believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony.[4]

This provision may aid Zimmerman in attempting to defend his actions as it does not place a requirement on the individual to have been first attacked. However, even with 776.012, there is still a problem with the reasonable belief standard. A “forcible felony” as stated in both 776.012 and 776.013 is defined under Florida statute §776.08 and includes: “murder; manslaughter; sexual battery; carjacking; home-invasion robbery; robbery; burglary; arson; kidnapping; aggravated assault; aggravated battery; aggravated stalking; aircraft piracy; unlawful throwing, placing, or discharging of a destructive device or bomb; and any other felony which involves the use or threat of physical force or violence against any individual.”[5]

  A classmate put these statutes in a way that really rang out for me: “Authorized Vigilante Justice.” Since hearing that, I have seen others voice a very similar opinion.[6] I grew up in South Central Texas, and I also own multiple firearms. I am a firm believer in an individual’s right to own and bear arms. Similarly, the right to defend yourself and your home are also codified in Florida statute §776.013. However, that right should not eclipse the rights of another individual’s rights.

Under the letter of the law there is a decent chance that a jury could find that Zimmerman reasonably believed that Martin was robbing a home, or any other of the many crimes applicable under §776.08. That is the problem. The state of Florida has allowed the beliefs of an individual with a gun to become a form of justice, and that simply should not be permissible.

There is no claim that Trayvon Martin actually committed a felonious crime or was in the process of committing one before his encounter with George Zimmerman that fateful night. But even if Martin had done something wrong, he is owed several things by our justice system, including the right to have a jury determine whether he is actually guilty of committing any crime. Instead, being a lone outsider in a community late at night seems to have given Zimmerman a right to take on the roles of everyone in our judicial system, from police officer to judge to executioner. The due process rights (not to mention the life) Zimmerman stole from Martin that night show, in and of itself, why the Florida law, as written, is simply unacceptable.

This is not to say that the idea of a “Stand Your Ground” law cannot work. It can. However, no law which gives an individual a right to end the life of another should be based on a standard that they reasonably believed that one thing or another was going to happen. An officer cannot arrest me without some measure of probable cause and a judge cannot sentence me to death until a prosecutor has proved to a jury that I have committed a crime punishable by death beyond a reasonable doubt. However, because Zimmerman was just an average citizen with a gun, he is allowed an almost indefinable standard by which to decide whether Martin had the right to continue living.

For a law of this type to be effective, it will take a clearer statute and standard by which to determine whether a crime is happening and a narrower definition of what allows an individual to initiate the use of deadly force against another. Several of the listed forcible felonies are obviously understandable (such as arson, sexual battery, aircraft piracy, etc.); however, others do not seem to warrant the punishment of potential death by citizen. For example, under Florida law, one is allowed to kill another if one finds it reasonably necessary to prevent them from committing an imminent car-jacking. To save the possession of a third-party from being stolen, it would be ok to kill someone. This is unreasonable.

The Florida courts should have the opportunity to look at Zimmerman’s case, if only for the fact they could have the opportunity to strike the law down and force the legislature to re-assess the how the law is written. Clearer definitions need to be implemented so that an individual must have more than just a subjective belief that a crime is being committed or that someone is threatening them. It may not be as extreme as needing to see a weapon, but a level of accountability must be in place for those who will take it upon themselves to put the words of 776.012 and 776.013 into effect.

We may never have a clear picture of what happened that night between Martin and Zimmerman Sanford, Florida. Instead, we will get a picture that involves a nation displaying a level of rage and debate over the actions taken that night by Zimmerman. Some have called this a race issue, and they may be right.[7] There is not enough known about Zimmerman to know if he would be driven by racial prejudice to act in this way. Others will say this is a gun rights issue, and they may be right, too.[8] There are many issues at play here. But in the end, I see only one solution being the correct one under the United States Constitution, and that is to arrest and try George Zimmerman for murder allowing for him to officially raise his self-defense claim (up to this point it has been the decision of the police and District Attorney’s to not arrest Zimmerman as they have determined he acted within the bounds of Florida statutes §776.013 and §776.012 in a court of law. Then it should be the responsibility of the courts to shoot down the defense and rule this law to be unconstitutional, so that Zimmerman is punished for his actions and the state of Florida’s legislature will be forced to fix this law so that another person will not feel justified by over-zealously taking the life of one of their fellow men.


[8] http://www.thenewamerican.com/opinion/950-bob-confer/11309-qstand-your-groundq-and-self-defense

Disclaimer: The copyright in each article and post is owned by its respective author. Opinions expressed are those of the respective contributor and not presented as the views of the Alabama Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Law Review, its editors, the University of Alabama School of Law or the University of Alabama Board of Trustees or any other entity not specifically mentioned. All statements on this site belong to its writer. In addition, the views, opinions, and conclusions expressed in this page are those of the author and not necessarily those of The University of Alabama or its officers and trustees. The content of this page has not been reviewed or approved by the University of Alabama, and the author is solely responsible for its content.

Drones: Soon Coming To A Sky Near You

The technology used for air traffic control is changing and so is the civilian aviation landscape. Last month,

James Tarbox, Junior Editor, Alabama Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Law Review

James Tarbox, Junior Editor, Alabama Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Law Review

Congress approved a plan that would phase out radar as the means of tracking planes and shifted to a system using GPS-satellite tracking.

Under this plan, the FAA would be required to phase in unmanned drone flights in currently-restricted U.S. airspace.[1] At the present time, the United States military maintains an arsenal of roughly 7,500 remote-controlled drones. With the end of combat operations in Iraq and the scale-back of combat operations in Afghanistan, there will be more drones back in the United States. Under current FAA regulations, remote-controlled drones are not allowed in U.S. airspace without special permission. This restriction is in place because the technology is not compatible with manned aircraft. The FAA is unsure of how the unmanned aircraft will interact with manned aircraft in U.S. cities.[2] To test how to integrate the drone force into the current civilian airspace, the FAA must establish a testing ground by June 30th of this year. The manufacturers of the drone fleet will have to create technology that allows the drones to sense they are flying too close to commercial or other manned aircraft and react accordingly. The FAA has yet to create guidelines as to how the technology needs to be developed and what the technology must contain.[3] Furthermore, there are broader questions as to how military technology used on the battlefield will be implemented back on the home front.

Several organizations have come out against the creation and implementation of these new policies by the FAA. Groups, such as the American Civil Liberties Union, have petitioned the FAA to ensure that the privacy rights of citizens are included in the analysis of allowing drones to be used domestically. The group warns in their petition that drones can easily intrude on the privacy of everyday people, and that this intrusion is a violation of the Fourth Amendment.[4] The ACLU’s petition states that these drones can “track up to 65 different targets across a distance of 65 square miles.” In addition, in the near future, these cameras may soon include facial recognition technology that would make it possible to remotely identify individuals at parks, schools, and political gatherings.”[5] The petition further urges that drones offer the user the ability to survey an area undetected by persons below. The drones can provide constant surveillance that previous technology could not sustain. Additionally, the petition argues that once facial recognition software is available for use on the drones, the FBI and other monitoring agencies could use that same technology against political dissidents. This use would, according to the ACLU, violate the would-be dissident’s First Amendment rights. The petition goes on to urge the FAA to evaluate the available options and conduct a study balancing the public and private interests in drone usage.

According to a recent Rasmussen poll, “that despite a willingness on the part of Americans to see the use of drones by the military in overseas situations, 52% oppose the use of surveillance drones by private entities, police agencies, and government agencies inside the US. Just 30% said they were in favor of the use of drones in the US.”[6] Jay Stanley, of the ACLU’s Speech, Privacy and Technology Project, says, “the FAA should be rightly concerned about ‘the safety effects of filling our skies with flying robots.’”[7] The concerns of these groups can be summed up in an additional quote by Stanley where he stated, “Congress — and to the extent possible, the FAA — need to impose some rules (such as those we proposed in our report) to protect Americans’ privacy from the inevitable invasions that this technology will otherwise lead to. We don’t want to wonder, every time we step out our front door, whether some eye in the sky is watching our every move.’”

Are the fears of the ACLU and other civil rights and watchdog groups well-founded? Will law enforcement in the United States be able to capitalize on this drone technology to decrease the amount of privacy we as Americans enjoy? In a world filled with security cameras and electronic monitoring of our activities such as credit card purchases, how much further can (should) the government go? The ACLU cites facial recognition software as a concern on these drones if used for domestic surveillance. This technology has already been used at large events such as the Super Bowl (since 2001) to target suspected terrorists in the crowd.[8] While it is apparently still in the development stages for use on aircraft, the fact of the matter is that we as Americans already subject ourselves to the use of this technology in some areas of our lives already. Additionally, police helicopters already have the technology to track individuals using infrared sensors. In this day and age, it is nearly impossible to get away from a police helicopter that is equipped with the most up-to-date technology.

Technological developments generally make their way from military use to civilian use, just look to cell phone technology and sport utility vehicles. Why aren’t drones just the next step of technology in a long stream of innovations that have traveled through the military to civilian use cycle? While the ACLU uses a “parade-of-horribles” for their scenario, it does make a valid point. If the police already have the technology to pursue criminals with infrared from a helicopter, why do the police need to be able to track people up to over 65 square miles? If the FAA program is successful in implementing the use of drones, strict limits will have to be put in place. Battlefield technology does not need to be implemented in whole on the home front. There should be certain exceptions allowed for entities such as the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI; however, these exceptions should have to go through the highest levels of authority to be approved.

The FAA has the opportunity to upgrade our air traffic systems to the highest level. The future of shipping could one day be changed because some of these drones can carry such large payloads. While helicopter pilots will not be replaced, there could be fewer deaths from helicopter crashes. While few and far between when compared to the number of helicopters flying every day, there are frequent helicopter and even small aircraft crashes in the United States. If a news crew needs to get a shot of morning traffic, no longer will a helicopter have to take the camera man to the scene. A drone could take off, circle the city, and relay the images of the interstate back to the station to be broadcast. The possibilities for new innovative uses are endless; however, the possibilities for government use against the people are endless, as well, and must be closely monitored to ensure that our right to privacy is not infringed upon by a piece of technology that the eye cannot even see.


 [8] http://www.usatoday.com/news/washington/2007-05-10-facial-recognition-terrorism_N.htm

Disclaimer: The copyright in each article and post is owned by its respective author. Opinions expressed are those of the respective contributor and not presented as the views of the Alabama Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Law Review, its editors, the University of Alabama School of Law or the University of Alabama Board of Trustees or any other entity not specifically mentioned. All statements on this site belong to its writer. In addition, the views, opinions, and conclusions expressed in this page are those of the author and not necessarily those of The University of Alabama or its officers and trustees. The content of this page has not been reviewed or approved by the University of Alabama, and the author is solely responsible for its content.

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