In an extremely controversial 4-3 opinion, the New Jersey Supreme Court upheld trial and Appellate Division rulings compelling a defendant to provide his cellphone passcode pursuant to a search warrant. The defendant was an Essex County Sheriff’s Officer accused of providing a drug dealer confidential information about an investigation into the dealer and his co-conspirators. The drug dealer gave evidence establishing that the sheriff’s officer provided him information about undercover surveillance of his vehicle and phones, as well as other case related information. Law enforcement confirmed there were numerous texts and calls between the sheriff’s officer and the drug dealer. Law enforcement obtained a search warrant for the officer’s cellphones, but were unable to access them without the defendant’s passcodes or PINs.
Recent cases continue to reveal the advancements in technology and how they are used, both properly and improperly, to track our movements, actions and private lives.
First, new cars have increasingly sophisticated technology. Roadside assistance features and other devices track our vehicles’ locations, speed and other relevant activities. Most vehicles are now equipped with Event Data Recorders, also known as a vehicle black box. Local police departments are now equipped to retrieve and analyze the black box data and use it against you in court. As of May 2018, almost all U.S. vehicles come standard with a black box installed.
I have written before about both the good advances in technology, and the negative consequences of some of those developments. Here are a few more methods high tech methods that law enforcement uses, and occasionally misuses, in its investigations.
Much has been written and tweeted about this past week concerning this topic. Politics aside for the moment, what does the government need to demonstrate to a court that a place should be searched, or a person’s phone calls should be intercepted?