Here is a case with one of the oddest fact patterns that caused murder charges against a group of geologists. In Italy, six geologists were charged with murder for failing to warn the town of an impending earthquake. Days before the earthquake, the scientists were accused of downplaying the likelihood of a major earthquake even though there was increased seismic activity reported in the area. As a result of the earthquake, 309 people died. In 2012, the geologists were convicted and sentenced to six years in jail and damages totaling over $10 million. This week, an appeals court acquitted the men and overturned the 2012 decision.
Last year, when Apple released a cell phone allowing one to unlock the phone with a finger print, a debate began as to whether or not the police were going to be able to use this to force a suspect to turn over the information contained on the phone. The problem lies in the fact that a fingerprint alone can unlock the phone. The U.S. Supreme Court had previously ruled that police are required to obtain a warrant before accessing the information on a cell phone. The idea behind this is that personal and private information is contained on phone, especially smart phones, and this should be no different than if the police wanted to look inside your house. They would need a warrant.
The problem for police is that most people now use a password on their phone, which means that they may be able to get a hold of the phone through a warrant, but now they can't unlock it and see the pot of gold. In comes Apple with new technology that allows one to unlock the phone with a fingerprint, which does not hold the same protection rights. We leave fingerprints everywhere.
While New Jersey has not ruled on the issue of whether or not one must unlock a fingerprint phone, a Virginia state court has. The Virginia court last week ruled that
IF the suspect's phone has a "touch-to-unlock" feature, suspects must use their finger or thumb to unlock the device, BUT they can NOT be compelled to turn over the passcode.
The good news is that only a few models allow for the finger touch unlock. However, a huge portion of the population rush out to buy new phones as they are released, which means that more and more people continue to have this problem of security from police investigations.
You might ask, what is one to do than if in a situation where the police have a warrant for your phone and it is fingerprint protected? Well, if it is an Apple phone, if you turn off the phone completely, when the phone is turned back on, you MUST use the passcode to unlock the phone before you can start using the fingerprint again. Essentially, it would go like this:
-police are knocking with a warrant for the phone and you power down the phone. Police get the phone, but can't use it against you.
For now, this remains one ruling by a state court in Virginia. But, expect to see this issue continue to evolve and more cases presented until our U.S. Supreme court makes an ultimate ruling.
In State v. French, the defendant entered into a plea agreement where he would plead guilty to driving while his license was suspended after multiple DUI convictions. He also pled guilty to a DUI. He had nine drunk driving convictions, six of which were in New Jersey. The State agreed to recommend concurrent sentencing with 180 days of jail and no probation. The judge sentenced defendant to 180 days jail, but ordered that he could serve the final 90 days in an inpatient drug rehab program. The State appealed the sentence arguing that the 90 days jail followed by 90 days rehab is an illegal sentence. The Appellate court concluded that the sentence was illegal because no discretion exists in the statute to replace half of the mandatory jail sentence with rehab. Additionally, the statute does not authorize a judge to sentence someone to an inpatient rehab. Therefore, the defendant will be re-sentenced.
In 1999, Defendant pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy and three counts of making gifts to public servants. This plea stemmed from events happening on two separate days. However, both matters were resolved in court on the same date. After waiting 10 years to apply for an expungement, Defendant applied to have multiple crimes expunged since they were resolved on the same date. The trial level court granted the petition for expungment because the crimes were "so closely tied together" as to allow for the relief sought. However, the State appealed the decision, stating that defendant was not eligible since his crimes occurred on two separate dates and he was not convicted of several felonies. The State argued that in order to be eligible to expunge a crime, you can not be convicted of a crime before or after the crime you wish to expunge. The Appellate Court agreed with the State and order for expungment was reversed.
-In The Matter of the Expungement of The Criminal Records of G.P.B.
We hear constantly how science continues to advance it uses for DNA. This may be one of the more disgusting DNA samples that a tech has taken. Police in Albuquerque, New Mexico were able to identify a burglar by using the DNA he left in a toilet. Police said the 33 year old man broke into a home, took a Coke from the refrigerator, drank it and used the bathroom while burglarizing a home. The problem was the man didn't flush the toilet! Investigators on scene noticed the Coke container and the unflushed toilet and matched the samples. The DNA matched, leading police to the arrest.