Thursday, August 9, 2012

License Plate Scanners Raise Privacy Concerns

License plate scanners, which are known as Automatic License Plate Readers, are being used by police departments throughout the country in increasing numbers.  Scanners are placed in the front of police cars which scan the license plates of vehicles within their field of vision searching for the license plate numbers in a national database.  Police in Columbia South Carolina report that roughly 20 stolen motor vehicles have been located by the use of these license plate scanners.  Civil liberty groups fear that these scanners could help compile data would could be used to create a national data base which would record the location and date of every single license plate on every vehicle that is scanned.  This data base could be used to track everybody's movements which could help create a gigantic government database which would help the government track each and every citizen of this country.  The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has sent record requests to 38 different police departments throughout the United States requesting that they be provided information on how the information obtained from these license plate scanners is used and if and where it is stored.  The ACLU also wants to learn if third parties have access to this information and whether the police departments store this information from the license plate scanners.  Instead of targeting particular individuals, like GPS devices do, license plate scanners have the potential of tracking everyone, regardless of whether they are suspected of doing anything illegal.  Officials in Maine retain the data for 21 days while in New Jersey the data is retained for five years.  The ACLU has yet to receive the information that they requested.

Since this is a relatively new technology, it is important that citizens get as much information as possible to determine the extent to which our privacy is being infringed upon.

For more information about the Chicago criminal defense attorneys at Legal Defenders, P.C., visit us at or call us anytime at 1-800-228-7295.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

It Is Now Legal For Government To Wiretap You Without A Warrant

In a sweeping decision which has the effect of amending the United States Constitution, a Federal Appeals Court has ruled that the government may wiretap its citizens without a warrant.  To understand the impact of this court ruling, you must understand the history of this case.  Shortly after the Watergate scandal, Congress passed a series of domestic surveillance laws which prohibited the government from wiretapping its citizens without a warrant.  Shortly after the terrorist attacks on 9/11 the Bush Administration invalidated the law and gave the ok to law enforcement to wiretap citizens phones without a warrant.  In 2008 Congress gave the Bush Administration the go-ahead to continue with the warrant-less wiretapping.  Five years before Congress authorized the warrant-less wiretapping the National Security Agency had illegally wiretapped the phone conversations of two attorneys with their clients in Saudi Arabia.  The Bush Administration's illegal wiretapping program had been exposed in a 1995 New York Times article.  The illegal wiretapping of the attorneys phone calls with their clients had been  revealed in documents that had been turned over by the government by mistake in an unrelated case.  The attorneys sued the federal government for violating the domestic surveillance laws that Congress had enacted after Watergate and won.  Each attorney was awarded $20,000 plus $2.5 million in attorney fees.  The government appealed the attorneys victory and yesterday the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled in favor of the government and dismissed the lawsuit and threw out the damages award.  In reaching this decision, the court ruled that when Congress passed the domestic surveillance laws after Watergate, it did not specifically waive the government's sovereign immunity, meaning it did not give citizens the right to sue the government when the government is caught illegally wiretapping them.  The Plaintiffs have indicated that they will continue to appeal this decision, but if it is not overturned, it effectively ends the court challenges to the Bush Administration's illegal wiretapping program since this is the only legal challenge to the once secret program.

For more information about the Chicago criminal defense attorneys at Legal Defenders, P.C., visit us at or call us anytime at 1-800-228-7295. 

Texas Executes Mentally Retarded Man

Texas has the distinction of being the second largest state in the United States by land mass.  Today's it has also achieved the distinction of being the only state in the United States to execute mentally retarded citizens. The case involves 54 year old Marvin Wilson who was executed in Texas last night as a result of a 1994 murder conviction.  Wilson had been convicted of murdering a drug informant in 1992.  In 2002 the United States Supreme Court ruled that it was unconstitutional to execute mentally retarded inmates because it violated the Constitution's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.  But the 2002 Supreme Court ruling gave states discretion in deciding who they consider to be mentally retarded.  Texas, an an effort to circumvent the Supreme Court's prohibition against executing mentally retarded inmates adopted a ridiculous standard to find that Marvin Wilson qualified for an execution.  Wilson's IQ had been measured at 61. Anything below 70 is considered to be mentally retarded.  Texas argued that Wilson's IQ test had been administered by an inexperienced intern, and that based on his ability to lead, lie and the opinion of his friends and family that he was not mentally retarded and qualified for an execution.  Texas is now the only state to use such a standard to determine if an inmate is mentally retarded.  Before the execution, Wilson's attorneys made a final plea to the Supreme Court but was turned down by Justice Antonin Scalia who is overseeing emergency appeals from the Court of Appeals covering the State of Texas.  

Wilson was the seventh inmate executed in Texas this year and the 25th executed in the United States so far this year.

For more information about the Chicago criminal defense attorneys at Legal Defenders, P.C., visit us at or call us anytime at 1-800-228-7295.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

New Law Makes It Easy For Police to Eavesrop

Last week, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed into law legislation that makes it easy for the police to secretly record people when investigating drug crimes.  Under current law, in order for the police to listen in to conversations they have to go to court and obtain a warrant from a judge.  This new law has removed this requirement.  Starting on January 1, 2013, police will be able to eavesdrop on a drug suspect's conversations by simply getting permission from the prosecutor.  Any recordings obtained can only be used in drug cases and in the prosecution of any violent felonies that occur during the commission of the drug crime, such as murderassaultrobbery or kidnapping.  As you can imagine, the measure has its supporters and critics.  Critics point to the erosion of a system of checks and balances that protects citizens from inappropriate conduct by the police.  Supporters point to the need to quickly obtain information on any suspected illegal drug activity.  It is important to note that any recordings obtained by this process can be used by the prosecutor and by the defendant and can also be used in any proceedings involving any disciplinary action against the police officers.  This measure is sure to be the subject of extensive court challenges in the future.

For more information about the Chicago criminal defense attorneys at Legal Defenders, P.C., visit us at or call us anytime at 1-800-228-7295.

Kane County Revising Court Security Policy

The Kane County Sheriff has announced that he will be revising his policy about bringing food into the Kane County Courthouse after discussing the matter with officials of the American Diabetes Association.  The policy change will allow flexibility for people with a medical condition while keeping food and drink out of the courtrooms.  The policy change was brought about by an incident which occurred in May of this year.  A complaining witness who had been subpoenaed to come to court to testify was stopped by courthouse security when he tried to bring a granola bar and 3 sodas into the courthouse.  This young man tried to explain to security that he was a diabetic and had to test his blood at least 12 times a day and was insulin dependent.  He was not allowed to bring the items into the courthouse even though he told security that if he had a diabetic reaction he probably would not have enough time to make it to the cafeteria or his car.  The man contacted the attorneys for the American Diabetes Association who contacted the Kane County Sheriff seeking an explanation.  The report that they have received a letter in response from the Sheriff indicating that he is working on changing the policy to allow people with diabetes and other medical conditions to be able to bring food into the courthouse.

For more information about the Chicago criminal defense attorneys at Legal Defenders, P.C., visit us at or call us anytime at 1-800-228-7295. 

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