Tagged: Fourth Amendment

Prof. Gershman on “Parking While Black”

In his most recent Huffington Post piece titled Parking While BlackProf. Bennett L. Gershman reviews a recent Circuit Court decision, United States v. Johnson, which is currently pending re-hearing at the 7th Circuit after it initially upheld the lower court’s decision. Prof. Gershman raises a fair question: “[Are the courts] about to decide if police have another legal method for harassing black citizens[?]”

In the middle of a Wisconsin winter with streets covered in snow, local Milwaukee police decided to harass a parked car with four black passengers inside after one just returned from a liquor store, citing Milwaukee parking ordinance (alleging the car was parked too close to a crosswalk), pulling all passengers out of the car, handcuffing them, searching the entire car and finding a gun as a result.

While the court’s majority sided with the government and held that the police did not violate the defendant’s Fourth Amendment rights and reasoned that police had probable cause (based on the parking ordinance) and as such “could forcibly detain the car and search the occupants,” Judge David Hamilton delivered a worth-to-read dissent, calling the police conduct “terrifying,” “outrageous,” and “extraordinary.” As Prof. Gershman points out, Judge Hamilton carried on by saying:

Imagine that the police tried that approach in Milwaukee’s affluent east side. Citizens would be up in arms, and rightly so.” … “No police officer could expect to keep his job if he treated a standing car as worthy of a [forcible] stop.”

Prof. Gershman concludes that:

The panel decision was vacated last month, and reargument has been ordered. It remains to be seen whether the entire circuit court will see it as Hamilton did or whether “parking while black” will sadly become as common a phrase as “driving while black.”

Justice Antonin Scalia and His Legacy in Criminal Law

WRITTEN BY: Anjelica Cappellino, Esq. & Prof. John Meringolo, Esq.

Justice Antonin Scalia’s recent passing has shocked the public, to say the least. The 79-year old Supreme Court Justice died in his sleep on February 13, 2016, while staying at a Texas resort during a hunting trip. The first Italian-American to serve on the Supreme Court, Scalia leaves behind his wife of fifty-five years and nine children.

Scalia’s death has already caused political chaos and derision as to who will appoint his successor and whether said appointment can be postponed until next year when the succeeding United States president takes office, even though President Obama is constitutionally beholden to choose the appointment and

[t]he historical record does not reveal any instances since at least 1900 of the president failing to nominate and/or the Senate failing to confirm a nominee in a presidential election year because of the impending election.  In that period, there were several nominations and confirmations of Justices during presidential election years.

It is no secret that Justice Scalia’s passing immediately furthered the divide between political parties, as Scalia was considered a staunchly conservative linchpin for many right-leaning opinions and his successor could tilt the direction of the Supreme Court. Interestingly, however, Scalia’s record on criminal law issues is quite diversified and does not prescribe to the values of only one political side.

Scalia was oftentimes a protector of Fourth Amendment rights, as evinced in several different opinions. In Kyllo v. United States, 533 U.S. 27 (2001), Scalia wrote the majority opinion which held that a thermal-imaging device used to detect amounts of heat emanating from a private home – which uncovered the defendant’s homegrown marijuana operation – constituted a search within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment. As Scalia writes,

in the case of the search of the interior of homes – the prototypical and hence most commonly litigated area of protected privacy – there is ready criterion, with roots deep in the common law, of the minimal expectation of privacy that exists, and that is acknowledged to be reasonable. To withdraw protection of this minimum expectation would be to permit police technology to erode the privacy guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment.

In other majority opinions penned by Scalia, he has evoked similar rhetoric, holding that GPS tracking in vehicles, United States v. Jones, 132 S.Ct. 945 (2012), as well as the use of drug sniffing dogs on a person’s front porch, Florida v. Jardines, 133 S.Ct. 1409, both constitute a search within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment.

Scalia has always stressed the manifest importance of the Sixth Amendment to all defendants. In the seminal case Blakely v. Washington, 542 U.S. 296 (2004), which held that the Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial prohibited judges from using facts that were not presented to a jury or admitted by the defendant to sentence a defendant above the maximum penalty, Scalia writes that the “right is no mere procedural formality, but a fundamental reservation of power in our constitutional structure.”

A strong proponent of the Sixth Amendment’s Confrontation Clause, Scalia wrote for the majority in Crawford v. Washington, 541 U.S. 36 (2004), which held that defendants have the right to live testimony in order to cross-examine the witnesses against them. Scalia articulates that, “the Clause’s ultimate goal is to ensure reliability of evidence, but it is a procedural rather than substantive guarantee. It commands, not that evidence be reliable, but that reliability be assessed in a particular manner: by testing in the crucible of cross-examination.” Similarly, in Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts, 557 U.S. 305 (2009), which held the defendant’s Sixth Amendment rights were violated when a forensic analyst’s lab report was admitted against him without him having the opportunity to cross-examine the individual who prepared the report, Scalia states

[a] forensic analyst responding to a request from a law enforcement official may feel pressure – or have an incentive – to alter the evidence in a manner favorable to the prosecution. Confrontation is one means of assuring accurate forensic analysis.

The above cases are just a few examples of the myriad of ways Scalia has shaped criminal law throughout his three decades on the bench. While the appointment of his successor is undoubtedly a hot button, partisan issue, Scalia’s own opinions, particularly on issues of criminal law, are that of a jurist with allegiance not to one political view but to one document – the Constitution.

Related Readings:

Know Your Rights!

POST WRITTEN BY: Danielle Petretta (J.D. ’17), Pace Law School

On November 18, 2014, the Criminal Justice Society, Criminal Justice Institute and Alumni Relations Office at Pace hosted Know Your Rights symposium. This event was created by Pace Criminal Justice Clinic students under the leadership of Professor David N. Dorfman.

Students were broken into groups, and each group participated in various skits demonstrating the appropriate responses during police street stops, stop and frisks, car searches, cell phone searches and more. While extremely amusing, the skits were followed by an important presentations during which students addressed legal issues involved in each of the skits. One of the problems is that many people do not know their rights and the available appropriate responses. The students’ skits conveyed the importance of being an informed citizen.

Think of some of the following statements and ask yourself if you know the answer:

  • Did you know that if a police officer approaches and asks you general questions, in a non-accusing manner, and you do not wish to answer, you can choose not to answer and walk away? (though doing so requires a level of courtesy)
  • Did you know that you do not have to consent to a car search without a warrant if a police officer stops your car, and that 80% of people only consent because they are uninformed of their right to refuse? (assuming that the officer does not have probable cause such as seeing drugs or firearms)
  • Did you know that cell phones cannot be searched incident to arrest without search warrant that is signed by a judge?

These are few of the questions that plague our justice system on a daily basis, which is why it is important to be aware of our rights, especially as young students in the midst of a technological revolution.

It is no secret that we live in an era where technology is rapidly changing. However, the law has not yet reached the 21st century, so there are many unsettled situation. In the meantime, our court systems battle these complex issues on a daily basis that arise with the advent of new technology. Think about the issues regarding cell phones searches, GPS devices, computers, social media, etc…. How is the law to handle the use of technology and searches while not infringing on person’s expectation of privacy? This is where the difficulty lies. We know that during a car stop, a police officer is allowed to search whatever is in plain view. On the other hand, what is the protocol for searching a computer that is left open and unattended? A cell phone that is seized? Can information found on social media websites be used against a person, and if so, how? What if the social media site is set to private? Do levels of privacy differ on the Internet? Should the same procedures currently applied in searches of cars, houses or people be applied to technology? These are some of the questions presenting much difficulty in articulating new laws.

For now, Riley v. California, decided just this year, is the only precedent we have regarding cellphone searches incident to arrest. An officer may seize a cell phone from an individual after his/her arrest, but may not open the phone or search through the phone without a valid search warrant. Here is an interesting excerpt from the Supreme Court decision: “Cell phones differ in both a quantitative and a qualitative sense from other objects that might be carried on an arrestee’s person. Notably, modern cell phones have an immense storage capacity. Before cell phones, a search of a person was limited by physical realities and generally constituted only a narrow intrusion on privacy. But cell phones can store millions of pages of text, thousands of pictures, or hundreds of videos” Riley v. California, 134 S. Ct 2473, 2478 (2014). It is clear that new law is warranted, but it must be balanced against our expectation of privacy.

The Know Your Rights event was an eye opener. It would be interesting to see how this event can be incorporated into the public or in other schools, perhaps even high schools. I think it would be an extremely informative and fun experience for young adults to become informed about what is unfolding around them. Personally, I was made aware of the consequences of the technology that we as a society have become so obsessed with and reliant on, while also realizing that the courts face a huge task of creating new laws addressing these new issues. I would urge everyone to become informed not only as to their own rights but also about what is currently being debated in our courts, because we will be the ones who will become affected in the future by the laws that are being created at this moment.

For your convenience, take a moment to begin and read the Know Your Rights! Top Ten Takeaways compiled by Professor David N. Dorfman.

Professors, Prosecutor, and Police Chief Address Cell Phone Searches after Riley

POST WRITTEN BY: Rebecca Arbolino (’16), Pace law School

On October 7, 2014, Pace Law School CLE and the Pace Law School Criminal Justice Institute co-hosted “Cell Phone Searches after Riley: Investigative and Evidentiary Issues.” The CLE commenced in the Gerber Glass Law Library Moot Court Room. Streaming video of the event was available online from Pace Law School.

Pace Law Professors Bennett Gershman, David Dorfman, and David Bender, along with two distinguished Pace Alumni, discussed the implications of the recent Supreme Court decision in Riley v. California.  Professor Bender is not only a professor at Pace Law but also a sole practitioner with extensive experience in technology and privacy litigation. Thomas Kapp, an Assistant District Attorney for Bronx County, and Chris McNerney, Esq., the Chief of Police for the Town of Greenburgh, added insight and practical depth to the scholarly panel. The moderator, Pace Law School 3L Annmarie Stephanic, began the event with a recorded webinar conversation between Prof. Gershman, a former defense litigator and prosecutor and A.D.A. Thomas Kapp. After the webinar, the panelists discussed Fourth Amendment issues after Riley. Finally, the panelists answered questions from attendees.


The webinar elucidated the main issues presented by Riley. Professor Gershman remarked upon Riley as a “landmark case.”  Riley is the first Supreme Court decision about police intrusion upon technological privacy, and Gershman found that the decision’s unanimity was “startling.”

A.D.A. Kapp explained that the practical implications for policing are minor: most prosecutors find it prudent not to use evidence acquired through warrantless cell phone searches. Rules for New York State and other states for searches incident to valid arrests required warrants to search cell phones before Riley in the absence of exigent circumstances or consent. According to Kapp, since the scope of Riley’s holding is limited to cell phones, warrantless searches of digital devices such as flash drives and digital cameras are still permissible.

Gershman agreed with the limited scope of Riley, but applied the reasoning therein to other devices like laptops: if an item’s immense storage capacity heightens the privacy intrusion of searching that item, then searches of digital devices similar to cell phones involve a heightened individual privacy interest. Under the Fourth Amendment reasonableness balancing test for warrantless searches, the question is whether any legitimate government interest outweighs the intrusion upon individual privacy interest. If the heightened privacy interest in cell phones expressed in Riley applies to similar devices like laptops, then the scales may tip toward requiring warrants to search those similar devices.

Kapp called Riley “a seminal case for the digital world” because the Supreme Court finally recognized the individual “right to digital privacy.”

Panel Discussion

Following the showing of the webinar, the panel discussion began with Prof. Bender explaining the rapid changes in privacy law. Privacy law changes in response to developments in technology such are drones and data mining.

Prof. Dorfman ignited the conversation with a criminal defense perspective: although police can often obtain a search warrant quickly, problems specific to searches of cell phones arise in applying for and issuing warrants. For example, if an officer arrests someone for selling drugs and he discovers a cell phone on the arrestee’s person, then is there a sufficient nexus between the drug selling and cell phone to establish probable cause for searching the cell phone? Prof. Dorfman further remarked upon Riley’s impacts for particularity in warrants to search cell phones: if cell phones contain immense amounts of data and are subject to heightened privacy interests, then do warrants to search cell phones require more particularity than they did before Riley?

Police Chief McNerney explained that officers in New York State almost always apply for a search warrant to search a cell phone. In applying for a search warrant, the officer asks for permission to search all possible areas in which he may obtain evidence of the crime, and the judge limits the officer’s requests. Satisfying the particularity requirement is thus the province of judges.

A.D.A. Kapp predicted that search warrants for both cell phones and other digital devices like computers will soon be subject to heightened particularity requirements. Although the particularity requirement presents specific problem in the context of digital searches, judges may decide to limit the scope of digital searches by issuing particularized warrants thereof.

Prof. Gershman mentioned the doctrine of minimization. Minimization requires particularity in order to avoid the search of information that is either privileged or unrelated to the crime.

Despite the Circuit Split about the particularity requirement for digital search warrants, Prof. Bender suggested the following procedure as a way to satisfy the doctrine of minimization. Officers create a bitstream copy, or mirror image, of the data to be searched. After a neutral third party conducts the search of the bitstream copy, the third party then provides officers with only information that is both non-privileged and relevant to the offense.

Prof. Dorfman further elaborated upon the framers’ concerns about “general searches.”  The doctrine of minimization and the particularity requirement are designed to prevent such searches. The Riley court explained that a search of a person’s cell phone is more intrusive than a search of his house is. The problem with particularity in searches of cell phones arises because of the plain view doctrine. For example, if officers are conducting a valid search for contraband ‘X’, then officers can seize contraband ‘Y’ so long as contraband ‘Y’ is in plain view during the search for contraband ‘X’. Evidence in plain view of crimes irrelevant to the authorized search is especially problematic in searches of cell phones with immense storage capacities.

According to Chief McNerney, the constitutionality of cell phone searches ultimately “boils down to reasonableness.” Prof. Dorfman explained, however, that “reasonableness” is not all-or-nothing: an individual who uses technology does not necessarily relinquish his right to privacy.

Prof. Gershman and the panelists ended the discussion with the framers’ intent: the framers themselves could not have imagined a device like a cell phone. Surprisingly, though, the Supreme Court originalists agreed that cell phones deserve heightened privacy protection. The Supreme Court pushes principles until they become illogical. In United States v. Robinson, 414 U.S. 218 (1973), the assumption that defendant had no expectation of privacy in his cigarette pack rang true. In Riley, however, the assumption that defendants had no expectation of privacy in their cell phones became illogical.

Q &A Session

An astute attendee asked about the significance of Riley’s warrant requirement, given the various exceptions thereto. Namely, if warrantless searches are permissible when no exigent circumstance exists, the owner consents to the search, or the officer conducts an inventory search, then does the warrant requirement change anything?

Although the panel understood exigent circumstances as a valid exception to the warrant requirement for nearly any search, panelists opined about consent and inventory searches. Chief McNerney explained that consent can be problematic.  The NYPD, for example, required specific, written consent forms instead of verbal consent.

A.D.A. Kapp wondered if the exception for inventory searches applies to cell phones: if cell phones are containers, then inventory searches thereof ensure that the owner cannot later claim that data is missing. Riley does not address whether a warrantless inventory search to catalog cell phone data is reasonable under the Fourth Amendment. Prof. Dorfman responded that an inventory search cannot be a ruse for an investigative search: the police have the burden to create a non-investigatory procedure for inventory searches.

Prof. Dorfman also inquired about whether warrantless searches of other digital devices stored in a vehicle fall under the automobile exception to the warrant requirement. Riley requires a warrant for cell phones within a legal automobile stop, even when officers have probable cause to believe that there is contraband inside the automobile. Riley does not, however, address whether searches of similar devices require warrants within the context of the automobile exception.

Another attendee asked about Riley’s rejection of applying the container analogy to cell phones: are there further implications for searches of similar, non-container devices? The panel agreed that Riley’s rejection of the container analogy to cell phones implies changes in the future of digital searches, but expressed that Riley does not illuminate the nature of those changes. Prof. Dorfman explained the impossibility of applying the constitutional text and framers’ intent to searches of intangible things like digital data: such application is like trying to fit “a square peg into a round hole.”  Prof.  Bender said that it may be best for the legislature to answer such questions.

Prof. Gershman concluded the discussion stating that both the judiciary and the legislature are “behind the curve perpetually” in the light of rapidly changing technology.