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Hartford criminal law attorney for electronic evidenceElectronic data is a factor that plays an important role in an increasing number of criminal cases. Law enforcement officials use multiple different methods to collect data about suspects, including where they have traveled and the people they have contacted or associated with. While people are becoming more aware of the risks that their personal information may be accessed through their cell phones, they may not realize that the vehicles they drive may also be collecting information that could be accessed by law enforcement. 

The extent of this issue was recently made clear when The Intercept obtained a contract between U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and a Swedish firm that provided “vehicle forensics kits.” This contract described the ways that CBP could use the firm’s technology to obtain evidence about how a vehicle was used, as well as data from cell phones or mobile devices that paired with a vehicle. While this specific contract only applied to CBP, other law enforcement agencies such as local police departments may have access to similar technology that will allow them to obtain vehicle data during criminal investigations.

Types of Data Collected by Vehicles

The computer systems on modern vehicles store a great deal of information that could be used to track a person’s movements and activities. A car’s telematics system can track the speed at which a vehicle has traveled, when headlights were switched on and off, when doors were opened, when seat belts were used, and much more. When combined with information from a vehicle’s navigation system, this may allow law enforcement to determine the locations a person has visited, whether they were carrying passengers, and when they stopped or exited their vehicle.

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Connecticut criminal defense attorney for facial recognitionTechnology is always improving, and as computers get faster and more efficient, more and more people have welcomed these devices into their homes and used them in nearly every aspect of their lives. However, many people do not realize the full extent that these systems play both on the personal level and in society at large. One issue that has affected people in recent years is the increased use of facial recognition technology in criminal cases. Police officers and law enforcement officials regularly use these tools to identify suspects and make arrests, but the limitations of technology and the biases built into these systems may result in wrongful arrests or convictions.

Problems With Facial Recognition

The use of automated facial recognition tools has become widespread in the United States, and unfortunately, it is not always clear when law enforcement is allowed to use this technology. Regulations vary from state to state, and while some cities have banned the use of facial recognition by police officers, most states have not placed any limitations on when or how these tools can be used.

Police may use facial recognition in a variety of ways, such as by comparing photos of suspects with a state’s database of driver’s license photos or a city or state’s collection of mug shots of people who have previously been arrested. In some cases, law enforcement officials may even use tools sold to them by private contractors that search through photos that are available online, such as on social media sites like Facebook or Instagram.

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Hartford weapons charges defense lawyerIn recent years, the use of deadly force by police officers has become a major concern for people throughout the United States. Police shootings occur regularly, and they often result in the deaths of suspects, including people who were unarmed or those who potentially could have been subdued by other means. In some cases, police are authorized to use deadly force against those who are wielding knives or other weapons. To avoid becoming a victim in these types of situations, those who could be arrested on criminal charges related to knives or other weapons will want to understand when police officers are permitted to use deadly force.

Recent Appeals Court Decision Illustrates When Deadly Force May Be Used

A case that was recently heard in the 9th Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals involved an incident in which police officers killed a man who was armed with a knife. The man committed “suicide by cop” in which he called 911 and falsely reported an assault by a man with a knife. When two officers arrived at the scene, he ran toward them while carrying a knife, and the officers opened fire. He was fatally wounded after being shot 10 times.

The man’s survivors pursued a civil rights lawsuit against the officers, but their case was dismissed by a district judge, who ruled that the officers’ use of deadly force was justified. The appeals court reviewed the case and looked at some of the key facts of the issue, including whether officers followed what is known as the “21-foot rule.” This is not an actual rule followed by police departments, but more of a guideline that states that a person carrying a knife or a similar deadly weapon may present a threat if they are within 21 feet of an officer, and this may justify the use of deadly force.

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Hartford, CT criminal defense attorney for false confessionsThose who are accused of committing crimes will often be unsure about their rights and the procedures followed when they are arrested and questioned by police officers. Unfortunately, this puts many people at a serious disadvantage, and they may say or do things that could be used against them in a criminal case. In far too many cases, police officers manipulate suspects into confessing to crimes that they did not commit, leading to convictions and lengthy prison sentences for those who are innocent. 

It is impossible to know how many people throughout the United States have been convicted based on false confessions. However, The Innocence Project, which has used DNA evidence to exonerate hundreds of people who have been wrongfully convicted, reports that false confessions were a factor in 29% of these cases. Those who are facing criminal charges or accusations will want to be sure to understand their rights and the ways they can avoid incriminating themselves.

Police Officers Are Allowed to Lie to Suspects

In most cases, false confessions occur because police officers mislead suspects or tell outright lies. The “Miranda rights” that protect suspects in the United States allow a person to decline to speak to police officers, while also giving them the right to have an attorney present during an interrogation. However, while police officers are required to inform suspects of these rights, they are not restricted from making misleading or false statements during an interrogation.

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Hartford criminal law attorney for Fourth Amendment rightsPeople in the United States have the expectation that their Constitutional rights will be protected in encounters with law enforcement officials. The Fourth Amendment provides protection against unreasonable searches, and this typically means that before police officers or other officials can search a person’s home, vehicle, or electronic devices, they must either receive consent from the person, or they must obtain a search warrant that is based on probable cause that the person has committed a crime. While these rights apply to people within the United States, many people do not realize that when traveling internationally, their phones, laptop computers, or other electronic devices may be subject to searches by customs agents, and in many cases, these searches are performed without obtaining warrants or receiving consent from a device’s owner.

Appeals Court Considers Legality of Border Searches

Concerns about the increasing use of warrantless searches by customs agents have been raised by advocates for privacy and civil liberties. In 2017, the Customs and Border Patrol (CPB) conducted more than 30,000 searches of electronic devices at U.S. borders, which was a massive increase from about 8,500 searches in 2015. Current CBP policies allow agents to open a person’s device and search through its contents, and agents can confiscate a device for up to five days without providing a reason for doing so. 

A number of lawsuits have been filed against the Department of Homeland Security by people who have been subject to these types of searches. In one case that is currently being heard by the First Circuit Court of Appeals, a group of 11 people are challenging the CBP’s policies, claiming that their First and Fourth Amendment rights were violated by border searches. The plaintiffs are all either U.S. Citizens or lawful permanent residents (Green Card holders), and customs officers conducted searches of their devices without obtaining warrants or accusing them of any crimes. In some cases, devices were confiscated and kept for multiple weeks or months.

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