Does Forced Decryption Violate the Fifth Amendment?

Can the government force a suspect to give up the encryption keys to his/her computer hard drives, to provide evidence to convict the suspect with? Does this violate the Fifth Amendment right against compelled self incrimination? This issue hasn’t yet been directly addressed by the Supreme Court.

“Federal prosecutors have formally dropped demands that a child-porn suspect give up his encryption keys in a closely watched case, but experts warn the issue of forced decryption is very much alive and is likely to encompass a larger swath of Americans as crypto adoption becomes mainstream.”

Read the entire story at Wired.com

If you believe your constitutional rights have been violated, a consultation with a competent and insured Civil Rights attorney can make all the difference.  Call the Lawyer Referral Service of the New Hampshire Bar Association for a referral at 603-229-0002 or request a referral online.

 

keys_woodleywonderworks

Photo by woodleywonderworks at Flickr Creative Commons

The Right to Counsel

In 1961, Clarence Earl Gideon was charged with breaking and entering a pool hall in Panama City, FL and stealing money from the hall’s vending machines.  Gideon could not afford a lawyer so he requested that an attorney be appointed to him.  His request was denied because he was not facing the death penalty, and he was sentenced to five years in prison.   In 1963, the US Supreme Court reversed his conviction, holding that defense counsel is “fundamental and essential” to a fair trial.  50 years later, a NY Times editorial examines whether this mandate is being met.

While the constitutional commitment is generally met in federal courts, it is a different story in state courts, which handle about 95 percent of America’s criminal cases. This matters because, by well-informed estimates, at least 80 percent of state criminal defendants cannot afford to pay for lawyers and have to depend on court-appointed counsel.

Even the best-run state programs lack enough money to provide competent lawyers for all indigent defendants who need them. Florida set up public defender offices when Gideon was decided, and the Miami office was a standout. But as demand has outpaced financing, caseloads for Miami defenders have grown to 500 felonies a year, though the American Bar Association guidelines say caseloads should not exceed 150 felonies.

Only 24 states have statewide public defender systems. Others flout their constitutional obligations by pushing the problem onto cash-strapped counties or local judicial districts.

Lack of financing isn’t the only problem, either. Contempt for poor defendants is too often the norm. In Kentucky, 68 percent of poor people accused of misdemeanors appear in court hearings without lawyers. In 21 counties in Florida in 2010, 70 percent of misdemeanor defendants pleaded guilty or no contest — at arraignments that averaged less than three minutes.

Read the entire editorial by the New York Times.

The NH Public Defender Program recently marked it’s 40th anniversary.  If you are charged with a crime in New Hampshire and the potential punishment for that crime includes jail or imprisonment, then you may be entitled to the appointment of a New Hampshire attorney to represent you.

If you are over income to receive appointed counsel, the Lawyer Referral Service of the New Hampshire Bar Association can refer you to attorneys who have satisfied specific  education  and experience requirements to receive referrals in felony matters.  Call 603-229-0002 or request a referral online.

 

 

kyle.taylor@oracle.com

SCOTUS to Decide Warrantless Blood Tests for DUI

Can a person suspected of drunk driving be compelled to submit to a blood test without a warrant?  That is the question before the U. S. Supreme Court today.

Blood Draw by Joshua/Yoon Hernandez at Flickr Creative Common

In October of 2010, a Missouri man, Tyler McNeely, was stopped by the  Missouri State Highway Patrol for speeding, after having a beer at a local bar.  Noticing signs of intoxication, the patrolman requested McNeely to submit to an alcohol breath test or blood test, which he refused.

After arresting McNeely,  Cpl. Mark Winder decided to take McNeely to the hospital for a blood test to “secure evidence of intoxication,” without first obtaining a warrant.

That nonconsensual blood test — considered a “search” in legalese — is at issue in front of the Supreme Court, which is expected to clarify when and under what circumstances a warrantless search can occur in such cases.

In court papers, lawyers for Missouri say that Winder didn’t attempt to obtain a search warrant prior to the blood test in part because, “Obtaining a search warrant in the middle of the night in Cape Girardeau County involves a delay, on average, of approximately two hours.”

Winder was concerned about the rate of elimination of alcohol in the bloodstream, which diminishes over time.

It turns out McNeely’s blood alcohol level was 0.154 percent, well above the legal limit of 0.08 percent . In court, McNeely moved to suppress the evidence against him, saying his constitutional rights against unreasonable search and seizure were violated.

The trial court agreed with McNeely and found that “the natural dissipation of alcohol in the bloodstream alone was not a sufficient factor to justify a warrantless blood draw in a routine stop.”  The Missouri Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s decision.  The Supreme Court will hear the case today.

Read the entire story by Ariane De Vogue at ABC.com.

If you believe your constitutional rights have been violated, the Lawyer Referral Service of the New Hampshire Bar Association can refer you to attorneys who specifically handle civil rights violations.  Call 603-229-0002 or submit an online referral request.

 

 

 

 

Female Inmates Sue for Equal Treatment

Four female inmates, incarcerated at the NH State Prison for Women in Goffstown, are suing the state over what they say is unequal treatment compared with male inmates incarcerated at the NH State Prison.

In an article written by staff writer Joseph Cote of the Nashua Telegraph:

The four inmates filed a suit in Merrimack County Superior Court on Monday alleging the state Department of Corrections hasn’t abided by a 1987 federal court order that it provide female inmates with services including vocational education, work, mental health and substance abuse treatment, education and housing programs comparable to those offered to men.

It’s not the first time the state’s treatment of women in prisons has come under fire. The suit comes a year after a federal civil rights committee lambasted the state over its treatment of female inmates.

The women are being represented by New Hampshire Legal Assistance and Devine, Millimet & Branch.

Read the entire story.

Discrimination affects people in all segments of our population.  The Lawyer Referral Service of the New Hampshire Bar Association can refer attorneys who specifically handle discrimination and civil rights issues.  Call 603-229-0002 or request a referral online.

Barbed wire image by Fiona Dalwood - Creative Commons

 

 

 

Bill Would Eliminate Sobriety Checkpoints

Sobriety checkpoints used to catch drunk drivers, organized by NH police departments would be eliminated by NH House Bill 1452.  A hearing is scheduled for Thursday, February 2 at 11 am., as reported by Matthew Spolar of the Concord Monitor.

“My concern is we’re giving up our right to travel freely,” said Republican Rep. George Lambert of Litchfield, a co-sponsor of the bill. “It allows (the police) to do all kinds of investigations for which they did not have original probable cause.”

Lambert and Rep. Seth Cohn of Canterbury, also a freshman Republican, see the checkpoints as running counter to the Fourth Amendment’s barring of unreasonable search and seizures. Cohn said the checkpoints give law enforcement “carte blanche to stop people ostensibly for sobriety.”

Read the full story.

Whether you are arrested at a check point or you’re pulled over on the road, you should not face a DUI on your own.  A lawyer can make a difference!  Call the Lawyer Referral Service of the NH Bar Association for a referral to a competent attorney who specifically handles DUI cases.  603-229-0002 or request an online referral

Supreme Court Rules on GPS Tracking By Police

In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court has ruled that police need a warrant if they wish to use a GPS tracking device on a suspect’s vehicle.

National Public Radio’s Nina Totenberg explained to Paul Brown:

“At issue here is the case of Antoine Jones, a Washington, D.C. night club owner. Police put a GPS tracking device on his car for 30 days. That helped authorities find a stash of money and drugs.”

“The Supreme Court decided today that placing a GPS device on a vehicle constitutes a search, so they need a warrant. The AP reports that Justice Antonin Scalia wrote the court’s main opinion.”

 
Read the complete story.

If you believe your civil rights have been violated, call the NH Lawyer Referral Service at 603-229-0002 for a referral to an attorney who specifically handles constitutional law.  You may also request a referral online.

Is a Drug Dog’s Sniff a Warrantless Search?

The United States Supreme Court agreed to hear a Florida case challenging the constitutionality of using a drug-sniffing dog in a warrantless search outside a home suspected of being a marijuana grow house.

As reported in the Huffington Post:

“The case, Florida v. Jardines, comes up from the state Supreme Court, which ruled that Franky the narcotics dog’s outside odor detection was “a substantial government intrusion into the sanctity of the home and constitutes a ‘search’ within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment.” Florida’s high court pointed to a 2001 U.S. Supreme Court opinion, written by Justice Antonin Scalia, that found police use of a thermo-imaging device to detect tell-tale heat emanating from a suspected grow house violated the Fourth Amendment’s ban on unreasonable searches.”

Click to read the entire article .

If you believe your constitutional rights have been violated, the Lawyer Referral Service of the NH Bar Association can refer you to competent attorneys who have experience handling constitutional law issues.  Call 603-229-0002 for a referral or submit the online request form.