If you missed the Protecting Civil Liberties and Public Safety in an Age of Terror event on Monday, November 14, 2016, worry not. You can enjoy the entire event right here. Join NYCLU senior staff attorney Mariko Hirose, Christopher Hamilton, of the FBI, Chief John Hodges, from the Westchester County Police Department Counterterrorism Unit, Pace Law professor and expert in international human rights and the war on terror Thomas McDonnell, and the moderator, Pace Criminal Law Professor David Dorfman.
Join the Pace Criminal Justice Institute, NYCLU Lower Hudson Valley Chapter, WESPAC & Westchester Coalition for Police Reform for an event Protecting Civil Liberties and Public Safety in an Age of Terror as the panelists discuss why protecting domestic civil rights is vital to fighting terrorism, on Monday, November 14, 2016 at 6:00 – 8:30 PM in Tudor Room, Elisabeth School of Law at Pace University in White Plains, NY.
POST WRITTEN BY: Marina Gubenko (’16), J.D. Pace Law School
The release of Google Glass to the general public comes with an issue attached – is it safe and legal to use while driving? Google Glass is a hands-free device that has the same capabilities as a smartphone and allows the user to surf the internet, send texts, and scroll through social media. Google Glass is like having a tiny computer in front of your face all the time.
New York State prohibits a person from using any portable electronic device while the car is in motion. N.Y. Vehicle and Traffic Law § 1225-d (McKinney 2014). Google Glass would seemingly fall under the NY statutory definition of portable device, which defines it as “any telephone, PDA, device with mobile data access, laptop, pager, messaging device, game, portable computing device, ‘or any other electronic device when used to input, write, send, receive, or read text for present or future communication.’” In examining whether Google Glass is legal to use while driving in New York, it is important to point out that the New York law prohibits use of any portable device while the vehicle is in motion. Considering a cellphone, it would be relatively easy for a police officer to observe if a driver operating a vehicle is holding a cellphone and doing something on it. However, with Google Glass functioning as glasses, a police officer would have a harder time deciphering if in use while the driver operates a vehicle.
In California, use of a telephone or electronic device is prohibited while driving unless the device is equipped to be hands-free. Cal. Vehicle Code § 23123 and § 23123.5 (West 2014). Additionally, a person is prohibited from driving a car when their vision is obstructed by “a television receiver, a video monitor, or a television or video screen….” Cal. Vehicle Code § 27602 (West 2014). Google Glass fits that definition; it is a monitor that is constantly in front of the driver. To violate this provision, the police officer needs to proffer evidence that Google Glass was on and being used while the person was driving. In 2014, a woman was pulled over and cited in San Diego, CA for wearing Google Glass while driving. The officer cited her under § 27602. According to a CNN news article, the case was dismissed because the evidence was insufficient to show that Goggle Glass was turned on at the time the woman was driving.
It has been argued that Google Glass is safer than using your phone while driving because a driver does not need to take hands off the wheel. However, a study conducted by the University of Central Florida showed that the reaction time between a Google Glass user and cell phone user in avoiding accidents was about the same.
The bottom-line is that Google Glass is a distraction when operating a motor vehicle. States are seeing the necessity of enacting new legislation to ban Google Glass while driving, and making sure that the new laws specifically include a device such as Google Glass. As of 2014, at least 7 states had proposed legislation. For example, NY Assembly Bill 02729 “prohibits the operation of a motor vehicle while using a wearable computer with a head-mounted display.” This bill is aimed to address ocular technology such as Goggle Glass. Moreover, another NY Assembly Bill 04879 seeks to expand the current definition of portable electronic device to include Google Glass.
Going back to the issue of enforcement; since it appears to be difficult for police officers to determine whether Google Glass was operational and in use while driving, it seems that to ensure safety, the easiest solution is to prohibit wearing it while driving all together. Have we become a society that is unable to tear ourselves away from the virtual world? Are we willing to forego public safety so we can have a piece of technology attached to our heads and stay ‘connected’? We shouldn’t need laws to answer that.
POST WRITTEN BY: Daphne Holmes*
Technology helps law enforcement agencies and justice personnel stay one step ahead of criminals, furnishing new ways to detect and prevent crimes, as well as helping prosecutors convict offenders. And since emerging technology is available on both sides of justice, the cat-and-mouse game between perpetrators and police is never-ending, requiring continual adjustments from law enforcement agencies.
The good news for public safety is that crime rates have generally decreased over the past two decades, due in part to advancements in crime detection and deterrent technology. Since effective policing leans heavily on the rapid sharing of sensitive crime-related data; the recent explosion in information technology is a positive development for law enforcement agencies. Identification technology, social media, and mobile capabilities also enhance public safety, enabling justice staff to do their business more efficiently and respond to unfolding investigations in real-time.
While technology poses challenges for law enforcement agencies, which continually strive to keep up with technology-based criminal enterprises; it does more good than harm in the fight against crime. Tech advancements in law enforcement include the following capabilities, which illustrate how quickly things change alongside technology.
Law enforcement agencies are spread throughout a national criminal justice system that involves, regional, state, and local authorities, each administering their policing efforts independently. Too often in the past, lack of access to timely information prevented various agencies from coordinating their efforts adequately. Advances in the way agencies share information and use criminal identification systems have led to tighter connections between independent law enforcement organizations and universal enforcement standards across jurisdictions. Sharing information about offenders also has a positive preventative impact, helping keep guns out of the hand of dangerous criminals and barring offenders from certain types of employment.
Security and Surveillance Upgrades
Property crimes continue to decrease statistically, so security and video surveillance upgrades have improved public safety dramatically. Camera technology, for example, produces modern models with higher image quality than past versions, and the size of high-quality cameras has also diminished, allowing them to be concealed for covert surveillance. Face-recognition technology is particularly rewarding, enabling law enforcement officials to literally pick faces from crowds. In fact, the technology is so accurate as to create privacy-rights controversies among those who feel it is too intrusive.
Though it is a social trend as much as it is a technological breakthrough, social media use nonetheless furnishes law enforcement advantages for agencies that use the technology effectively. For example, criminals leave trails using social media platforms, so justice agencies turn to Facebook, Twitter and other channels for vital clues and insight into criminal behavior. The technology also enables officers to distribute information directly to concerned citizens, informing them of unfolding crimes and dangerous developments.
Social media links law enforcement directly to the public at large, so it is a great tool for spreading descriptions, videos and other information about criminals. Communicating in real-time closes the crucial gap between the point at which crimes occur and when investigations begin, enabling citizens to respond with timely information.
Crime Mapping Technology
Modern computing power speeds up data analysis and enables law enforcement to track crime trends geographically. What was once accomplished through countless man-hours pouring over data is now a matter of a few mouse clicks. Crime mapping enables agencies to zero-in on problem areas, stepping-up enforcement efforts and assisting in bringing in fugitives. Like highly sophisticated “pin-maps” highlighting crime location, mapping and geographic profiling give enforcement officers clear snapshots of crime trends.
Mobile technology furnishes an electronic trail of texts, emails, calls and GPS location information that law enforcement uses to solve cases. Smartphones are so widespread the contact information and other data they contain give officers a starting point for their investigations, which often unfold in arrests directly related to information gleaned from mobile devices and usage. Using advanced digital forensics technology, investigators find links between suspects and their crimes, which might go unnoticed without mobile connections. In addition to investigative benefits, mobile technology speeds communication between officers, agencies and citizens.
Technology will never replace solid investigative work, but modern advances assist law enforcement efforts to stay ahead of criminals. Mobile technology, social media, and rapid access to information contribute to better enforcement and prevention. And crime-mapping and video surveillance breakthroughs also increase public safety, enabling justice agencies to direct resources to where they are needed most.
Opinions expressed in this post are those of the author and do not reflect the position of the Pace Criminal Justice Center or its Board of Advisors.
The Justice Department has announced a new policy that will require federal law enforcement agencies to electronically record interviews with suspects. According to Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.,
Creating an electronic record will ensure that we have an objective account of key investigations and interactions with people who are held in federal custody. It will allow us to document that detained individuals are afforded their constitutionally protected rights.
The new policy will require federal law enforcement agencies to record interactions with a detained suspect during the time between the suspect’s arrest and initial appearance before a judge. Notably, the new policy also suggests that officials should consider using electronic recording devices during other investigative situations, including witness interviews.
This is a stark change from the Department’s prior policy, which expressively prohibited the use of recording equipment by law enforcement agencies when conducting interviews with suspects. The Justice Department was previously concerned that the use of recording devices would undermine investigative techniques of federal agencies, and would discourage suspects from talking. The Department also once expressed that jurors may frown upon FBI interviewing techniques, and have “unfavorable impressions of agents” had they heard verbatim accounts of such interrogations.
Mr. Holder discounted these concerns, explaining that federal officials should be more committed to a process that exemplifies evenhanded enforcement of the law, and the new policy would “provide verifiable evidence that our words are matched by our deeds.” He noted that it is of great importance for federal agencies to ensure that the statements of suspects are accurately recorded, and that suspects are afforded their constitutional rights during interrogations with federal agents.
National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers President Jerry J. Cox was pleased to hear about the Justice Department’s policy change, noting that the use of electronic recording during interviews
protects the accused against police misconduct, protects law enforcement against false allegations, and protects public safety by ensuring a verbatim record of the interrogation process and any statements.
Mr. Holder has already begun the implementation of the new policy, and has instructed United States attorneys and agency field offices to begin training sessions. As of July, the new policy will apply to the FBI, DEA, ATF and U.S. Marshals Service.
- Michael S. Schmidt, In Policy Change, Justice Dept. to Require Recording of Interrogations, New York Times (May 22, 2014).
- Ryan J. Reily, Eric Holder: ‘Sweeping’ New FBI Recording Policy Will Protect Both Suspects, Agents, Huffington Post (May 22, 2014).
- Dennis Wagner, DOJ Reverses No-Recording Policy for Interrogations, USA Today (May 21, 2014).