Pubdate: Thu, 28 Jul 2016
Source: Trentonian, The (NJ)
Copyright: 2016 The Trentonian


The digital age is bringing new challenges to the Fourth Amendment. 
But a key decision last week bolsters this right.

The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution is crucial to liberty 
because it protects the "right of the people to be secure in their 
persons, houses, papers and effects against unreasonable searches and 

The digital age is bringing new challenges to the Fourth Amendment. 
But a key decision last week bolsters this right.

At issue are devices such as the StingRay by Harris Corp. that, in 
the company's description, among other things performs "dialed number 
and registration collection, mobile interrogation and target tracking 
and location" of cell phones.

In the case United States v. Raymond Lambis, the federal Drug 
Enforcement Administration used such a device to collect data from 
Lambis' cell in its drug trafficking case against him that allowed 
the DEA to locate where he allegedly was holding illegal narcotics. 
But William H. Pauley III, a federal district judge for the Southern 
District of New York, threw out the evidence.

The StingRay device mimics an actual cell phone tower, allowing 
government agents to stimulate a signal to a particular cell phone, 
then locate it. "If the government had wished to use a cell-site 
simulator, it could have obtained a warrant," the judge wrote. 
"Absent a search warrant, the government may not turn a citizen's 
cell phone into a tracking device."

The judge noted that last year, "perhaps recognizing this, the 
Department of Justice changed its internal policies, and now requires 
government agents to obtain a warrant before utilizing a cellsite simulator."

For California law enforcement, last year Gov. Jerry Brown already 
signed into law the California Electronic Communications Privacy Act, 
which banned the use of StingRay devices without a warrant.

Unfortunately, the Lambis case still is pending in federal court. The 
decision only affected the StingRay evidence. The increase of digital 
technology involves other questions about the war on drugs. For 
example, the International Association of Chiefs of Police warns the 
pervasive collection of snapshots of auto license plates might 
violate the First Amendment by recording "vehicles parked at 
addiction-counseling meetings, doctors' offices, health clinics, or 
even staging areas for political protests."

In these controversies over new digital devices, government always 
should err on the side of protecting our rights.

- - Los Angeles Daily News, Digital First Media
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