George F. Hildebrandt
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March 2015 Archives

Law Enforcement, Privacy, and StingRays

As surprising as it may sound, the U.S. Constitution does not contain an express right to privacy.  To remedy this scary fact, the Bill of Rights was born out of the need to establish boundaries upon which government could not infringe without certain explicit procedures.  From an historical perspective, the Constitutional Framers were interested in protecting privacy of persons and possessions, specifically related to unreasonable searches and seizures (the Fourth Amendment), the privilege against self-incrimination (the Fifth Amendment), and a general protection of privacy (the Ninth Amendment).  Today, surveillance devices are chipping away at our privacy, largely without any disclosure to us and in a form that cannot be sensed or observed.

Yates v. United States - Context is Everything...

This blog entry is intended to highlight a part of the law that usually confuses people - words. Please read it as a cautionary tale, keeping in mind that sometimes it takes the Supreme Court of the United States to determine the meaning of a statute in a criminal law case.

Drug Smuggling: What You Should Know

Drug smuggling has been a part of American culture for a long time. Drug use took off in the late 1960s when middle class Americans changed their perspective on drug use, taking it from taboo to fashionable. Drugs became an appendage of social rebellion and protest during an era of political unrest. Over time, government pushed back against the drug culture, and as a result, it passed laws such as the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act in 1970. The Act included the Controlled Substances Act which set forth five categories or schedules for regulating drugs based on their medicinal value and potential for addiction.

Government Mass Surveillance: A Myriad of Threats

Mass surveillance in the United States invokes too-close-to-home trepidation of a totalitarian "Big Brother" surveillance state. For most people, the inescapable surveillance state depicted in George Orwell's dystopian novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four, seemed just that -- a thing for novels. Times have changed. Riding on the coat tails of the September 11, 2001 tragedy, the National Security Agency has expanded its mass surveillance efforts including the tracking of calls of millions of Americans and spying on calls, text messages, and e-mails. The government's surveillance programs receive authorization under a variety of laws, but two major players are the Patriot Act and the FISA Amendments Act.

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