U.S. Supreme Court Unanimously Rules on Warrantless Cell Phone Searches

 

Our answer to the question of what police must do before searching a cell phone seized incident to an arrest is [ ] simple— get a warrant.

Riley v. California, 573 U.S. ____ (2014).

Warrantless cell phone searches have been addressed a couple of times by TNLawyerLee (here and here).  But as of today, there is a new development out of the United States Supreme Court, significantly limiting warrantless police searches of cell phones: police generally cannot search a cell phone during an arrest without a warrant.  To read the USA Today article on Riley v. California, click here.  To read the full court opinion, click here.

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The author of TNLawyerLee is Nicholas W. Lee, Esq., an attorney in Knoxville, Tennessee.  If you or someone you know need an attorney, please click herefor Mr. Lee’s contact information and contact him today for a free consultation.  Also, please feel free to visit Mr. Lee’s website,www.TNLawyerLee.com or follow his page on Facebook for updates as to his law practice or new posts to TNLawyerLee by clicking here.

The information on this site is general information and should not be construed as legal advice. Every case is unique and you should consult with an attorney in your state about the specific details of your case. Nothing on this site or in correspondence with Nicholas Lee or his agents shall be construed as forming an attorney-client relationship and information you send prior to the forming of an attorney-client relationship may not be kept confidential. Neither this site nor correspondence with Nicholas Lee or his agents shall be construed as a promise nor as undertaking a duty regarding you or your case. Nicholas Lee and his agents are not retained as your legal counsel unless a valid written Representation Agreement is reached regarding your specific case.

Copyright © 2014. Nicholas W. Lee, Attorney at Law. All rights reserved. This site’s content may not be used without the prior written consent of Nicholas Lee.

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This Week in the Law – Cell Phones, Killing, and Criminal Pregnancies (oh my)

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Image from scotusblog.com.

As loyal readers already know, this legal blog often focuses on contemporary legal issues.  Accordingly, the Friday Afternoon Reads (what I have come to call my weekly posts as they are posted on, well, Friday afternoons when most people’s levels of motivation are not exactly at their highest) often highlight a significant legal development from the past week.  However, this past week has been especially busy and so any post doing it justice will have to discuss at least three things.

First up is the issue of warrantless cell phone searches.  As you might recall, one of this blog’s first posts was about when police can search your cell phone without a warrant (click here to view).  Fast forwarding to this past Tuesday, the United States Supreme Court heard arguments in Riley v. California and United States v. Wurie as to when searches of cell phones should be permissible.  If you would like to learn more about these cases, click here to read the reporting from scotusblog.com or click here to read the reporting from the New York Times.  The legal scholars among you will definitely be watching to see where the Supreme Court comes down on these cases.

As a side note, even back in 2012 when the article “Cell Phone Searches” was posted, it was already apparent that pass-code protecting your phone was a good idea.

Next up from this week in the law is the topic of killing, more specifically the execution of an Oklahoma man, also this past Tuesday.  If you need a quick refresher on the status of the death penalty in the United States, click here to read “Florida and the Death Penalty in 2014.”  In short, many citizens oppose the death penalty as being immoral and/or an overly cruel punishment, and those people must be up in arms after the execution of Clayton Lockett this week.  Mr. Lockett was “accidentally killed” in the middle of the state’s efforts to execute him.  I will skip over the gruesome details, but suffice it here to say that Mr. Lockett suffered.  A lot.  Click here to read the reporting on Mr. Lockett’s execution from Slate.com.

And the final topic for this week in the law is what was referred to in this post’s title as “criminal pregnancies.”  As some of you might know, the Tennessee Legislature passed into law a statute making it a criminal offense punishable by up to 11 months and 29 days in jail in certain situations were women use certain drugs while pregnant.  Proponents of this measure seemed primarily driven by a desire to protect unborn children, while opponents seemed primarily driven by the belief that women facing addiction issues will be less likely to come forward for help when they could be convicted.  Click here if you would like to read more on this topic from thinkprogress.org.

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The author of TNLawyerLee is Nicholas W. Lee, Esq., an attorney in Knoxville, Tennessee.  If you or someone you know need an attorney, please click herefor Mr. Lee’s contact information and contact him today for a free consultation.  Also, please feel free to visit Mr. Lee’s website,www.TNLawyerLee.com or follow his page on Facebook for updates as to his law practice or new posts to TNLawyerLee by clicking here.

The information on this site is general information and should not be construed as legal advice. Every case is unique and you should consult with an attorney in your state about the specific details of your case. Nothing on this site or in correspondence with Nicholas Lee or his agents shall be construed as forming an attorney-client relationship and information you send prior to the forming of an attorney-client relationship may not be kept confidential. Neither this site nor correspondence with Nicholas Lee or his agents shall be construed as a promise nor as undertaking a duty regarding you or your case. Nicholas Lee and his agents are not retained as your legal counsel unless a valid written Representation Agreement is reached regarding your specific case.

Copyright © 2014. Nicholas W. Lee, Attorney at Law. All rights reserved. This site’s content may not be used without the prior written consent of Nicholas Lee.

Is America Still Racist – A Brief Post in Light of Shuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action

"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character."        - Martin Luther King, Jr. -  Image from kids.nationalgeographic.com

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”
– Martin Luther King, Jr. –
Image from kids.nationalgeographic.com

In the grand scheme of things, it was not too long ago in our nation’s history that Martin Luther King, Jr., delivered his now-famous words, “I have a dream.”  And, indeed, there are many who believe that this dream has been (or is close to being) realized, at least in many areas of the country.  However, there are many who believe that, at least in other parts of the country, the dream is not yet here.  These competing viewpoints came front-and-center this week in the United States Supreme Court case of Shuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action.

Sparing you an exhaustive history of racial equality in the United States, we will fast forward to the year 1978 and the Supreme Court case of Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, 438 U.S. 265 (1978).  At issue in that case was the use of “affirmative action” in college admission policies.  Affirmative action, known by some as positive discrimination, is the act of or policy of favoring individuals of historically disadvantaged or discriminated against groups.  In Bakke, the United States Supreme Court stated it was unconstitutional to set racial quotas for college admission classes (an example would be to say that 20% of the incoming class has to be of a certain minority group), but that it is constitutional to consider race as one of many legitimate factors when considering an individual for admission.

Certainly, there are many arguments for and against affirmative action.  One argument for affirmative action is that, as a nation, we have placed groups of citizens at a disadvantage and so we must affirmatively level the playing field.  One argument against affirmative action is that two wrongs do not make a right (discriminating does not cure past discrimination).  Hopefully the goal being that one day race will not be an issue at all (whether belong to the camp of people who believe that day is here or near, or to the camp of people who believe we still have a ways to go, is another issue).

Fast forwarding to this past Tuesday, the Supreme Court decided in the case of Schuette that states are also at liberty to pass laws outlawing schools from considering race at all when considering an individual for admission.  Essentially, schools may still consider race as a factor, but only if it is in a state where the people have not voted that race should not be a factor.  As summarized by Justice Kennedy, “This case is not about how the debate about racial preferences should be resolved. It is about who may resolve it. “

Sources included: click to read the full opinion of Shuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action; click to read the full opinion of Regents of the University of California v. Bakke; SCOTUSBlog.com; “U.S. Supreme Court gives states freedom to prohibit use of affirmative action for school admissions,” and article by Robert Barnes of the Washington Post; “The Case For Affirmative Action,” by Charles J. Ogeltree, Jr.; and “The Case Against Affirmative Action,” by David Sacks and Peter Thiel.

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The author of TNLawyerLee is Nicholas W. Lee, Esq., an attorney in Knoxville, Tennessee.  If you or someone you know need an attorney, please click herefor Mr. Lee’s contact information and contact him today for a free consultation.  Also, please feel free to visit Mr. Lee’s website,www.TNLawyerLee.com or follow his page on Facebook for updates as to his law practice or new posts to TNLawyerLee by clicking here.

The information on this site is general information and should not be construed as legal advice. Every case is unique and you should consult with an attorney in your state about the specific details of your case. Nothing on this site or in correspondence with Nicholas Lee or his agents shall be construed as forming an attorney-client relationship and information you send prior to the forming of an attorney-client relationship may not be kept confidential. Neither this site nor correspondence with Nicholas Lee or his agents shall be construed as a promise nor as undertaking a duty regarding you or your case. Nicholas Lee and his agents are not retained as your legal counsel unless a valid written Representation Agreement is reached regarding your specific case.

Copyright © 2014. Nicholas W. Lee, Attorney at Law. All rights reserved. This site’s content may not be used without the prior written consent of Nicholas Lee.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Right to Lie – Freedom of Speech in 2014

The Nation well knows that one of the costs of the First Amendment is that it protects the speech we detest as well as the speech we embrace. United States v. Alvarez, 132 S.Ct. 2537 (2012).

On Tuesday, April 22, 2014, the United State Supreme Court is scheduled to hear the case of Susan B. Anthony List v. Driehaus.  In short, if it is found that Susan B. Anthony List (“SAB List”) (a pro-life, nonprofit organization) has standing, then the question that will be before the Court is whether a law that criminalizes false speech about a political candidate is constitutional or if it is a violation of our American Right to Free Speech.

On the side of SAB List is a long-standing legal tradition in our country of an extreme dislike for limiting free speech, especially when that particular type of speech is discriminated against due to it’s content.  For instance, the United State’s Supreme Court ruled in the case of United States v. Alvarez that the Stolen Valor Act of 2005, which made it a crime to falsely claim one has received a military decoration, was unconstitutional (full court opinion can be read here).

It should be mentioned that in Alvarez, the Court took notice that there are situations where the freedom of speech can be constitutionally limited (such as speech that causes harm, defamation and threats being examples).  Two possible questions this case could boil down to in SAB List v. Drihaus is (1) does the speech at issue cause harm that we need to prohibit, and (2) is the law at issue the correct way to do it?  At least to the second question, the law has its work cut out for it – restrictions of speech based upon that speech’s content is subject to an extremely heightened scrutiny in this country, one that few laws ever survive.

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The author of TNLawyerLee is Nicholas W. Lee, Esq., an attorney in Knoxville, Tennessee.  If you or someone you know need an attorney, please click herefor Mr. Lee’s contact information and contact him today for a free consultation.  Also, please feel free to visit Mr. Lee’s website,www.TNLawyerLee.com or follow his page on Facebook for updates as to his law practice or new posts to TNLawyerLee by clicking here.

The information on this site is general information and should not be construed as legal advice. Every case is unique and you should consult with an attorney in your state about the specific details of your case. Nothing on this site or in correspondence with Nicholas Lee or his agents shall be construed as forming an attorney-client relationship and information you send prior to the forming of an attorney-client relationship may not be kept confidential. Neither this site nor correspondence with Nicholas Lee or his agents shall be construed as a promise nor as undertaking a duty regarding you or your case. Nicholas Lee and his agents are not retained as your legal counsel unless a valid written Representation Agreement is reached regarding your specific case.

Copyright © 2014. Nicholas W. Lee, Attorney at Law. All rights reserved. This site’s content may not be used without the prior written consent of Nicholas Lee.

 

Red Light Cameras: Making Streets Safer or Unconstitutional Money Machines?

Picture getting home from work one day, running out to check the mail, and finding that you have a ticket waiting for you in the mail.  The ticket alleges that you have broken a traffic ordinance and must pay a fine or show up for court.  You don’t know what this ticket is talking about, so you do a little research and find out that a traffic camera recorded you driving a month ago where you slowed down at an intersection (but did not stop) and then you made a right turn on red.  A camera  sent you a ticket?  

Citizens across the nation find themselves in situations like these on a daily basis.  According to the Governors Highway Safety Association (“GHSA”), “12 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands have speed cameras currently operating in at least one location” and “24 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin islands have red light cameras operating in at least one location.”  (See http://www.ghsa.org/html/stateinfo/laws/auto_enforce.html).  The GHSA lists a number of different legal consequences that might apply in different states, including in Tennessee where points won’t be added to your driving record, but you can be accessed a fine of $50 per violation.

Advocates for the use of traffic cameras provide such arguments that the traffic cameras make our streets safer and it is like having extra officers on the streets.  Opponents argue that traffic cameras might actually increase accidents, are just money machines to raise funds for the government, and/or are downright unconstitutional. And these differences of opinion have given rise to legal actions across the nation.

One such instance arises out of California in the case of Howard Herships v. California.  As reported by Dennis Romero of LA Weekly, Herships received a number of traffic camera tickets and has argued that they are unconstitutional as they violate the U.S. Constitution‘s Confrontation Clause (namely, his right to confront his accuser) (click here to read Dennis Romero’s article).  At Herships’s trial, a police officer was allowed to testify as to the authenticity of the traffic camera pictures and videos, even though the officer did not personally observe Herships breaking a law (see http://www.scribd.com/doc/214945429/Howard-Herships-Red-Light-Camera-Cert-Petition-Filed-Copy).  The problem, worded colorfully by Dennis Romero, is “how can you [confront your accuser] if your accuser is a camera?”  Now Herships is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear his case.

Each year the U.S. Supreme Court turns down hundreds of cases seeking an audience with the Justices, as is their right.  As of now, the Supreme Court has not decided whether to hear Herships’s case and may decline to do so.  But traffic cameras are a part of daily life across the nation, a part that many citizens would like to see go away.

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The author of TNLawyerLee is Nicholas W. Lee, Esq., an attorney in Knoxville, Tennessee.  If you or someone you know need an attorney, please click herefor Mr. Lee’s contact information and contact him today for a free consultation.  Also, please feel free to visit Mr. Lee’s website,www.TNLawyerLee.com or follow his page on Facebook for updates as to his law practice or new posts to TNLawyerLee by clicking here.

The information on this site is general information and should not be construed as legal advice. Every case is unique and you should consult with an attorney in your state about the specific details of your case. Nothing on this site or in correspondence with Nicholas Lee or his agents shall be construed as forming an attorney-client relationship and information you send prior to the forming of an attorney-client relationship may not be kept confidential. Neither this site nor correspondence with Nicholas Lee or his agents shall be construed as a promise nor as undertaking a duty regarding you or your case. Nicholas Lee and his agents are not retained as your legal counsel unless a valid written Representation Agreement is reached regarding your specific case.

Copyright © 2014. Nicholas W. Lee, Attorney at Law. All rights reserved. This site’s content may not be used without the prior written consent of Nicholas Lee.

 

McCutcheon and A Brief History of Campaign Finance Reform

Does campaign financing sound like a dull topic?  I expect it might to some.  For that matter, many people might not keep up with politics beyond that presidential election that happens every so often.  However, a major case was decided this week, so with this post I will try to walk the line between keeping this article a “light afternoon read” while covering a highly important topic in current events.

Politics are important – they dictate so much about our lives on a daily basis.  Which is why I have heard so many people this week lamenting or praising the United States Supreme Court’s decision Wednesday in McCutcheon v. FEC.  I will not discuss McCutcheon at length, but suffice it to say that the decision does away with limits on aggregate campaign contributions (if you want to read the full case, click here).  If you already know what aggregate campaign contributions are, feel free to skip the next paragraph.

For those who are unaware of what aggregate campaign contribution are, a distinction needs to be made between “base limits” and “aggregate limits.”  Base limits restrict how much money can be given to a single candidate.  Aggregate limits restrict how much money can be given overall to all candidates and committees over a certain course of time.  The ruling in McCutcheon overturned limits on aggregate campaign contributions but did not overturn limits on base campaign contributions.  After McCutcheon, one can still only contribute up to a certain amount to one candidate, but then can continue contributing to other candidates and committees.

The implications of this?  I have heard colorful commentary from both sides.  Some say it allows for constitutional contributions and involvement in the political party by those wishing to donate.  Others state that it allows a wealthy person to have too much sway over politics and even that it places our government up for auction.  But rather than debate the merits of campaign finance reform, I will rather leave those of you who would like to read more with this article I found interesting from The Washington Post, “From George Washington to Shaun McCutcheon: A brief-ish history of campaign finance reform.”

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The author of TNLawyerLee is Nicholas W. Lee, Esq., an attorney in Knoxville, Tennessee.  If you or someone you know need an attorney, please click herefor Mr. Lee’s contact information and contact him today for a free consultation.  Also, please feel free to visit Mr. Lee’s website,www.TNLawyerLee.com or follow his page on Facebook for updates as to his law practice or new posts to TNLawyerLee by clicking here.

The information on this site is general information and should not be construed as legal advice. Every case is unique and you should consult with an attorney in your state about the specific details of your case. Nothing on this site or in correspondence with Nicholas Lee or his agents shall be construed as forming an attorney-client relationship and information you send prior to the forming of an attorney-client relationship may not be kept confidential. Neither this site nor correspondence with Nicholas Lee or his agents shall be construed as a promise nor as undertaking a duty regarding you or your case. Nicholas Lee and his agents are not retained as your legal counsel unless a valid written Representation Agreement is reached regarding your specific case.

Copyright © 2014. Nicholas W. Lee, Attorney at Law. All rights reserved. This site’s content may not be used without the prior written consent of Nicholas Lee.

Florida and the Death Penalty in 2014: The Case of Hall v. Florida

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(picture from azfamily.com)

An unpleasant topic not often discussed is the death penalty.  Most people this author has encountered agree that the death penalty should be reserved for more horrible crimes.  Beyond that, stances on the death penalty often split into some people being in favor of the death penalty, some people being against it, and many simply not having a stance.

But, regardless of your stance regarding the death penalty, the case of Hall v. Florida has received far too little attention this week.  

Backing up a little, in the 2002 U.S. Supreme Court case of Atkins v. Virginia, the Supreme Court ruled that execution of “mentally retarded” defendants was unconstitutional as it was cruel and unusual punishment under the 8th Amendment to the United States Constitution (to read the full opinion of Atkins v. Virginia, click here).

As framed by constitutional scholar John Blume, the issue now before the Supreme Court in the 2014 case of Hall v. Florida is

[W]hether persons who have been clinically diagnosed with mental retardation (now commonly referred to as intellectual disability) can nevertheless be put to death if they cannot satisfy the rigid IQ test score cutoff of 70 established by the Florida Supreme Court—a cutoff clearly inconsistent with the commonly agreed upon definition of mental retardation embraced by the Court in its 2002 decision in Atkins v. Virginia which all but a handful of outlier states use. 

(to view Mr. Blume’s more lengthy observations on Hall v. Florida, click here).

From this author’s experiences in the legal profession, the handling of “mentally retarded” or “intellectually disabled” individuals in the legal system is a complicated issue for which there is not yet always an adequate answer.  While, as pointed out by Mr. Blume, most states do not utilize Florida’s method for defining mental retardation, the Supreme Court’s ruling in this case should still be carefully watched as it has the potential to affect the rights of many defendants of questionable intellectual disability in capital punishment cases.

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The author of TNLawyerLee is Nicholas W. Lee, Esq., an attorney in Knoxville, Tennessee.  If you or someone you know need an attorney, please click here for Mr. Lee’s contact information and contact him today for a free consultation.  Also, please feel free to visit Mr. Lee’s website, www.TNLawyerLee.com or follow his page on Facebook for updates as to his law practice or new posts to TNLawyerLee by clicking here.

The information on this site is general information and should not be construed as legal advice. Every case is unique and you should consult with an attorney in your state about the specific details of your case. Nothing on this site or in correspondence with Nicholas Lee or his agents shall be construed as forming an attorney-client relationship and information you send prior to the forming of an attorney-client relationship may not be kept confidential. Neither this site nor correspondence with Nicholas Lee or his agents shall be construed as a promise nor as undertaking a duty regarding you or your case. Nicholas Lee and his agents are not retained as your legal counsel unless a valid written Representation Agreement is reached regarding your specific case.

Copyright © 2014. Nicholas W. Lee, Attorney at Law. All rights reserved. This site’s content may not be used without the prior written consent of Nicholas Lee.