Monday, April 25, 2016

FIGHTING THE POLICE SEARCH OF YOUR COMPUTER

Under the Fourth Amendment, police must generally obtain a warrant before they can search your property. However, there are exceptions such as where you consent to the search.

But let’s say, the police tell you they are looking for one thing on your computer but actually look for something else. For example, in one Illinois case, the defendant consented to a search for viruses relating to compromised credit card information, but the officers instead looked for images and found child pornography. (See People v Prinzing.)

What can you do? Is the search valid?

The answer depends on the scope of your consent. If an officer asks to search your computer and you agree, your consent may be open ended and allow just about anything. But what if the circumstances are not so cut and dried?

Under U.S. Supreme Court case law, the scope of a suspect’s consent is measured by ‘objective reasonableness.’ What would the typical, reasonable person understand by the exchange between the officer and the suspect? The court looks at the expressed object of the search. (See Florida v. Jimeno.)

In the example above, the court said that the defendant had consented to a search for viruses and not images. Thus, the search was illegal and the child pornography evidence was suppressed.

In another case, (U.S. v Price, 12-1630 & 12-1880), a police woman asked to search defendant’s computer but said she was not an expert at computer forensics and another officer would need to conduct the search. The defendant consented, but later said he was only consenting to a search at that moment and not later. The court said the defendant’s understanding of a time limit was not reasonable since the officer had told him she couldn’t do the search herself.

Once you have given consent, you still have a right to limit it or withdraw it.

If you are charged with a computer-related or other offense, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. An attorney can review your case to help present the best possible defense. If the search if illegal, an attorney may be able to bring a motion to have the evidence against you suppressed.

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.)

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

2016 UPDATE ON COURTHOUSE CELL PHONE RULES

After some confusion resulting from the recent removal of cell phone lockers at the George N. Leighton Criminal Courthouse, it seems like a good time to review the rules.

Cook County first implemented its courthouse cell phone ban in 2013. The ban is currently limited to the George N. Leighton Criminal Courthouse, 2600 N. California, Chicago. The ban was in response to security concerns that cell phones were improperly used to photograph witnesses, jurors and judges who would then be intimidated.

The ban prohibits cell phones, laptop computers, tablet computers, smartphones and all other devices capable of connecting to the internet or making audio or video recordings. Anyone violating this rule can be held in contempt of court, face a fine or jail time and have their device confiscated.

The Criminal Courthouse does provide a limited number of free storage lockers. But these lockers became difficult to oversee and were possibly used to store contraband, so the county removed them in early April. That lasted about one week and the lockers are now back. The county still recommends leaving your devices at home. The courthouse does provide public phones.

There are several exceptions to the ban. These include: jurors, attorneys and their employees, judges, persons with disabilities, news media, government employees, vendors, repair people and law enforcement. You may also bring your device if you are seeking an order of protection, you are participating in domestic violence counseling or if you are required to wear an electronic home monitoring device. If you fall into one of these categories, you must have proper identification and official business at the courthouse. For more information in Cook County, see Cell Phone and Electronic Communication Device Ban.

DuPage County also bans cell phones or communication devices in the courthouse. See Du Page County Security Information. Lake County allows you to bring in electronic devices, but they must be turned off. See Lake County Courthouse Security Brief.

If you have questions about this or another related 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.)

Monday, April 4, 2016

FRUIT OF THE POISON TREE: STATEMENTS FROM AN ILLEGAL ARREST

Under the Constitution, police have to operate by law before they can deprive you of liberty or property. If your initial stop or arrest is illegal, then the poison fruits of that stop or arrest cannot be used against you subject to certain exceptions.

For example, police must read your Miranda rights when they take you into custody. If they do not, any statements made in custody can be suppressed. However, your statements may be used in court if they are sufficiently removed from the illegal way in which the police obtained them.

To determine if your statements are far enough removed from the “illegal taint,” the court looks at four factors: (1) the flagrancy of police misconduct; (2) whether there were intervening circumstances; (3) the proximity of time between defendant's arrest and statement; and (4) whether Miranda warnings were given to the defendant.

In a recent Illinois case, (People v Gempel), the court suppressed statements that defendant made after an arrest based on these four factors. The court found: 1) police misconduct was flagrant in that officers ignored defendant’s requests for an attorney, saying he did not need one; 2) the results of a DNA test did not create a sufficient intervening circumstance; 3) the 37 hours between the arrest and defendant’s statements may have coerced defendant into confession; 4) while officers repeatedly read defendant his Miranda rights, their continuous disregard of those rights in reality coerced his confession. Therefore, the state failed to “purge the taint of an illegal arrest,” and defendant’s statements could not be used.

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.)