On June 6, 2023, the New Jersey Appellate Division issued State v. Johnson, a valuable published opinion that clarifies the procedures that must be followed under the “vehicle registration search” exception to the warrant requirement. The vehicle registration search exception the warrant requirement authorizes police to enter a lawfully stopped vehicle to conduct a [...]
In an extremely controversial 4-3 opinion, the New Jersey Supreme Court upheld trial and Appellate Division rulings compelling a defendant to provide his cellphone passcode pursuant to a search warrant. The defendant was an Essex County Sheriff’s Officer accused of providing a drug dealer confidential information about an investigation into the dealer and his co-conspirators.
Headlines and tweets coming out of Washington have put a spotlight on law enforcement’s use of informants, now known in federal parlance as “confidential human sources” or CHS. Putting aside the political theater and self-serving spin of the “criminal deep state” and the planting of spies, how are informants used in every day investigations?
Using human sources (informants) to collect information is common throughout municipal, state and federal investigations. Informants are either individuals who have been charged with their own crimes and have agreed to cooperate in the hopes for reduced charges or sentence based upon that cooperation, or are people who are paid for their information and access to criminal groups or activities. The use of confidential human sources is expressly encouraged by the guidelines that cover the FBI’s behavior.
Technology has advanced the ease and quality of life immeasurably. Smart phones are handheld computers that can surf the internet; deliver emails, texts and phone calls; take videos and pictures; make dinner reservations and track your every movement through various apps. Our cars can almost drive themselves with lane change warnings; infrared cameras; heads-up displays, cruise control with radar; event data recorders that record speed, braking and seatbelt use; and GPS tracking in case the car is stolen. Home security cameras, Amazon Echo, smart TV, smart appliances and the like can all be controlled remotely through the internet. A variety of devices that are small and comfortable enough to wear, such as Fitbits, iWatches and the like can track our movements, heart rates, calories burned, number of steps and location.
The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects us from unreasonable searches and seizures. Unlike a warrantless stop and search of a car or of a person walking down the street, when law enforcement searches a home or business they have usually obtained a search warrant to do so. A search warrant must be issued by a neutral and detached magistrate (judge); be supported by probable cause; and describe in detail the place to be searched and the things to be seized.