For years, courts around the country have admitted “expert” testimony on bitemark analysis. These so-called experts have opined that bitemarks on human skin, often presented in sexual assault and murder trials, are distinct and “match” the defendant’s dental records. A new comprehensive federal report from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), still [...]
In the past, federal agents and prosecutors have sought subpoenas and search warrants that authorize the seizure of every electronic device at the location to be searched – computers, servers, external hard drives and cell phones. This policy has resulted in an exponential growth in seized data.
It’s 6 a.m. or 8 p.m., your doorbell rings and two people are standing outside holding up their badges and credentials. They say they are Special Agents with the FBI or IRS and would like to talk with you for just a few minutes about something important. They ask if they could come in [...]
Newly sworn in Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg issued new policies and procedures to his staff that substantially altered existing office policy in prosecuting criminal cases. The new directive defers certain prosecutions for lower-level offenses, reduces certain felony offenses, prohibits seeking life in prison without parole, and prohibits seeking bail except in limited violent offenses.
ProPublica recently reported that Facebook hired 1000 workers around the world to review WhatsApp messages that are flagged as “inappropriate.” WhatsApp markets itself as a private messaging platform that secures those messages with end-to-end encryption that only the participants can view. Billions of people around the world use WhatsApp and other such “secure” messaging services to exchange private, sensitive business or personal messages.
A new, just released report shows the number of federal and state-authorized wiretaps conducted in 2019. A wiretap is a court-authorized warrant, allowing law enforcement to listen to and record conversations and/or text messages on a target’s phone. In most jurisdictions, the law enforcement agency applying for such an order must demonstrate that there is probable cause to believe that the target is engaged in a specified unlawful activity, that he uses the particular phone to conduct his illegal activity, that traditional methods of investigation have been tried or would not likely be successful, and that the wiretap is necessary to uncover the full extent of the target’s criminal activity, and/or the other coconspirators’.
When a person is a target of a federal or state criminal investigation, they are often contacted − either directly if unrepresented or through counsel if represented − to attend either a proffer or a reverse proffer with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, State Attorney General’s Office, or County Prosecutor’s Office.
Whether you are in federal or state court, well-crafted pretrial motions are essential to a successful defense. Pretrial motions are requests by way of formal motion, which may ask for the court to compel the prosecutor to turn over evidence, to dismiss the indictment or certain counts, to exclude or limit certain evidence, or to prevent the prosecutor from making certain arguments to the jury, among other things. These types of motions may also raise discovery violations; challenge the admission of evidence from searches, electronic surveillance, identifications, and custodial interrogation; and/or challenge the sufficiency of grand jury proceedings.
I have written a number of times about modern technology being used in criminal investigations, from cellphone towers tracking our phones, to Alexa and other smart home devices used to record internet searches and conversations, to security cameras used to spy on their homeowners. Recently, the New York Times and other media outlets reported that Google has the ability to track which cellphones are in the area of a crime scene at a particular time. Once law enforcement narrows down which phones they are interested in, they obtain a warrant for the particular cellphone owner’s information.
I have written before about both the good advances in technology, and the negative consequences of some of those developments. Here are a few more methods high tech methods that law enforcement uses, and occasionally misuses, in its investigations.