Monday, December 21, 2015

CAN POLICE SEARCH YOUR COMPUTER?

The police are at your door. A neighbor complained about a disturbance and they came to investigate. You figure you have nothing to hide in your home so you consent to the search. But you do have something to hide—only it’s in your computer.

Can police search your computer? What are you rights?

Generally, police need a search warrant before they can look at the contents of your computer unless some other exception to the warrant requirement exists. (See U.S. vs Flores-Lopez.) Unlike other physical objects, computers hold vast quantities of private and sensitive information. Even when police can legally take the computer, they must still get a warrant to investigate it.

The U.S. Supreme Court has held that computers cannot be searched as part of an arrest. Generally, that type of search is allowed to preserve evidence and to protect officer safety in case the defendant has a weapon. The court held that neither rationale applies to digital data.

Officers can still search your computer if there is a compelling emergency—such as locating the whereabouts of a kidnapped child.

But what if you told police it was OK to search home? Does that include your hard drive? Police may generally look only where the object of a search may reasonably be found. Guns or drugs are not likely to be found on your computer screen. If you told police they could search your computer, however, your consent may be general enough to permit the search. This is a developing area of law.

If you believe the charges against you are the result of an illegal search, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. An attorney can determine if police followed proper procedures. If not, an attorney may be able to petition the court to suppress any illegally obtained evidence.

If you have questions about this or another related Illinois criminal or traffic matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com.

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)

Friday, December 4, 2015

NEW ILLINOIS LAW REQUIRES POLICE BODY CAMERAS AND OTHER IMPROVEMENTS

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again. The vast majority of police are good people trying to do a difficult job in community service. Unfortunately, the recent epidemic of unjustifiable police killings have spotlighted more than a few bad apples. Fortunately, the Illinois legislature has acted to improve police-citizen relations in our state.

The new law taking effect January 1, 2016 makes significant changes.

First, police will be required to wear body cameras, a big step in holding police accountable to the public. Body cameras can further provide evidence that is useful for both defendants and police. Cameras must be turned when the officer is in uniform and responding to calls for service or other law-enforcement related activity.

The new law attempts to balance law enforcement interests with privacy. Officers need not activate the camera when in their squad car if they are not involved in law enforcement activities. Cameras must be turned off at a victim’s or crime witness’s request as well as when the officer is dealing with a confidential informant. The officer may also turn off the camera when involved in a community caretaking function unless a crime is being committed.

The law clarifies that the public is allowed to record police encounters although police still have a right to control a crime scene if such people become disruptive.

Officers will be required to receive yearly and long-term training beyond what they learned at the police academy including training in cultural competency. The law also bans the use of chokeholds.

The law was the fruit of negotiations between the ACLU, the NAACP, community groups and law enforcement groups and passed with bipartisan support. To see a copy of the bill, visit Illinois Police and Community Relations Improvement Act.

If you have questions about this or another related Illinois criminal or traffic matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com.

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)