January 2017 Archives

Search and seizure: Smartphone pass codes lose protection

A December 2016 court ruling may have far-reaching implications for people whose phones are in police hands. In a case in Florida, a man has been ordered by an appeals court to provide the pass code to his smartphone so that police can look for potential up-skirt photos, which the man was accused of taking in a store before running out. The ruling is controversial because it runs counter to other high-court interpretations of Fourth Amendment protections.

Understanding the basics of search & seizure protections

The 4th Amendment was created as a response to the unjust search and seizure of colonists’ homes during the Revolutionary War. The 4th Amendment generally requires a warrant to be obtained before officers enter private property. This prevents law enforcement from simply barging into a home and turning the place upside down to search for evidence.

Recognizing and fighting prosecutorial misconduct

Although incidences of prosecutorial misconduct are somewhat rare, it can happen. Prosecutors are not always infallible and can play an integral role in wrongful conviction cases. In fact, national data compiled through the California Innocence Project found anywhere between 36 to 42 percent of overturned convictions based off of DNA evidence were linked to prosecutorial misconduct.

Governors also issuing pardons for certain drug crimes

There’s been a recent trend in the U.S. criminal justice system to decriminalize marijuana possession and to fix what many see as unduly harsh sentences for certain offenders. For example, The New York Times reported that Gov. Peter Shumlin of Vermont, a Democrat, has pardoned 192 people who had been convicted of misdemeanor marijuana possession. These pardons had been given to people who had no previous violent crimes or felony convictions, and who had no DUI or reckless driving convictions.

This is What Happens When You Get a Wheelchair DUI

A DUI in a motorized wheelchair? The notion sounds too bizarre to be true, but it happens. Many states' laws specify that you don't have to drive a car to be charged with driving under the influence. Driving a boat, a motorized wheelchair, a bicycle, or even riding a horse qualifies in this type of misdemeanor. For example, police arrested an Amish man asleep in his horse-drawn carriage in Pennsylvania for a DUI in 2009.

A Facebook Confession? Social Media Postings as Possible Evidence

Late last December 2016, a young woman had been arrested on a number of charges--driving with a suspended license, driving without insurance and with defective equipment, and marijuana possession. She posted bond from jail and was released the same day. What's unusual is what she did next.

Ex-offenders taking to criminal justice reform advocacy

One of the most frustrating problems in criminal justice is how to reduce rates of recidivism (re-offending). Prisons could be places of rehabilitation, reform, treatment and education. But too often, they are merely holding cells. And when prisoners are released, the stigma of a criminal record often makes it difficult or impossible to find legal work. This feeds the recidivism cycle.

Reports Show National DUI Rates in a Steady Decline

In a bit of positive news, recent statistics have revealed national DUI rates have dropped to their lowest point in 13 years. The 2014 data was compiled through the National Survey on Drug Use and Health and was just recently made available to the public. Although there’s not one single factor contributing to the decline, the hope is that DUI incidents remain low.

Concerns Over Faulty Software Within the Court System

The scenario is horrifying: a software error leads to your wrongful imprisonment. Despite your claims of innocence, you’re put behind bars due to a faulty court management system. This may sound like the plot of a fictionalized book or movie, but the truth is software problems are causing legal disasters across the country.

Even with a state license, you can be arrested with a gun in NYC

You have a license to own a gun. You're flying into New York City, so you check the TSA (Transportation Safety Administration) guidelines. You unload your gun and pack it, following these guidelines. You double-check your state license to make sure it's valid. Everything looks fine, so you fly to the city. No problem. A few days later, you come back and try to fly out.

Real examples of junk science and wrongful conviction: Part I

In early December, we wrote that a number of common forensic tests used by law enforcement are being called "junk science" by the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. The group issued a report noting that several tests used to convict people of crimes have not proven to be reliable enough to be considered scientifically valid.

The justice system is not always just - you need a good attorney

Justice is supposed to be blind, fair and equal. But most Americans realize that our criminal justice system does not always live up to these promises. Sometimes, "blind" justice is unfair because of sentencing laws and guidelines that impose a punishment based on technical details of a crime and give no consideration to the context.

One way to reduce police bias: overlook the small stuff

Racial bias in policing has been a major focus of media attention over the past two years, and there is reason to believe that it will continue to be a highly discussed topic in 2017. Those who deny bias in policing point out that in the vast majority of cases, stops are made legally and police do find evidence of wrongdoing upon searching suspects.

Should we worry about our devices becoming surveillance tools?

Technology getting "smarter" and eventually becoming a liability is a Hollywood trope that borders on cliché. But what was once science fiction now seems more possible than ever. The danger doesn't necessarily lie with artificial intelligence that becomes self-aware and turns on us (as in the Terminator franchise).

Facing criminal charges? Here's why you need a lawyer

There is no doubt that millennials are doing things differently than their predecessors. Some of these changes are superficial, like opting to watch content online rather than paying for cable television. Others, however, are more impactful, such as the focus on cooperative work and the belief in their abilities to effect social change.

In NYC & elsewhere, the drug crisis reaches a new level of deadly

It has been known for years that prescription and illicit opioids have been killing Americans in increasing numbers. These drugs, in the form of prescription painkillers and street drugs like heroin, are taking lives at an alarming rate. Individuals who would never fit the stereotype of "drug users" are getting addicted, often after obtaining painkillers from medical professionals.

Drug and alcohol use on the rise among older Americans

Almost everyone is familiar with the campaign that runs through elementary, middle, and high schools every year proclaiming the evils of drugs in an effort to get children to steer clear from these vices. While there is still a significant amount of social pressure on parents to talk to their children about drugs and alcohol, children are not the only vulnerable age group. The aging baby-boomer population is actually using drugs and alcohol an increasing rate.

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Robert D. DiDio & Associates

Robert D. DiDio & Associates
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