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Jennifer Warfield, MJLST Staff

In "Constitutionalizing Email Privacy by Information Access" from Volume 9, Issue 1 of the Minnesota Journal of Law, Science, & Technology, Manish Kumar discussed the unique Fourth Amendment issues raised by governmental access to electronic communications, specifically emails. Similar privacy issues are now being analyzed and reviewed by the Supreme Court in the context of warrantless searches of cell phones by law enforcement in two cases: Riley v. California, No. 13-132 and United States v. Wurie, No. 13-212.

The courts have traditionally allowed warrantless searches pursuant to the Search of Person Incident to Arrest (SPIA) exception to the Fourth Amendment. Under this doctrine a police officer may search an arrestee's person incident to the arrest and seize and search any personal property in his or her possession at the time of the arrest. Such searches are justified under the theory that they protect officers by allowing them to search for weapons and preserve evidence. The Fourth, Fifth, Seventh, and Tenth Circuits have upheld warrantless searches of cell phones under the SPIA doctrine on the grounds that a cell phone is analogous to a container like a backpack or wallet, which the Supreme Court has long deemed searchable. Other courts have held that modern cell phones cannot be compared to traditional containers given the vast amount of sensitive data contained within them, and that less intrusive measures can be used in the name of data preservation such as Faraday Bags or "airplane mode," which both prevent internet signals from reaching a phone to prevent remote wiping.

The specific issues before the Supreme Court in Riley and Wurie are respectively: 1) whether the Defendant's Fourth Amendment rights were violated when he was convicted for attempted murder based on the police's search of his smartphone after he was pulled over for having an expired auto registration; and 2) whether evidence gathered after the police inspected a drug dealer's call log should have been thrown out by the federal appeals court in Boston. These cases provide the Supreme Court an opportunity to clarify the meaning of the Fourth Amendment in the age of smartphones, and will shed light on how similar devices like tablets and laptops will be treated by courts and police officers in the future.

Breathalyzers v. Blood-Alcohol Tests


Jenny Nomura, MJLST Managing Editor

In the MJLST volume 11 spring edition, David Liebow discussed the difficulties of obtaining the source code of breathalyzers in DWI cases. In his note "DWI Source Code Motions after Underdahl" Liebow argues for easier breathalyzer source code access for DWI defendants. Obtaining the breathalyzer source code could help DWI defendants show the unreliability of the machine. In the years following the note, not much appears to have changed. And in some states it might not change for a long time, if ever.

The Minnesota Supreme Court received a case in which the source code of the Intoxilyzer 5000EN was in question (In re Source Code Evidentiary Hearings in Implied Consent Matters, 816 N.W.2d 525 (Minn. 2012)). The District Court had accepted the testimony of the state's expert witness that the device was accurate, and the Minnesota Supreme Court affirmed that holding. In a dissent, Justice Page stated that "a defendant may not raise the source code as a potential cause of an inaccurate or deficient sample." Other states have reached a very different conclusion: that maybe breathalyzers shouldn't be relied on. In Pennsylvania, a county judge held breathalyzers were not accurate above a reading of 0.15.

So what does the future hold for breathalyzers? There is a tangle of recent case law that might play a role in determining whether police use breathalyzers or blood-alcohol tests. In Pennsylvania, police have switched from relying on breathalyzers to blood-alcohol tests in response to the county judge ruling. However, in a recent United States Supreme Court case, Missouri v. McNeely, 133 S. Ct. 1552 (2013), the Court held police must obtain a search warrant or have exigent circumstances to have a blood-alcohol test done for a person arrested for a DWI. That case seems to push police back to relying on breathalyzers. But the Minnesota Supreme Court held in Minnesota v. Brooks, 838 N.W.2d 563 (Minn. 2013) that Brooks gave consent voluntarily and freely at the time of the arrest to submit to the blood-alcohol test, and therefore the police didn't need a search warrant or exigent circumstances.

If police officers are able to obtain a blood-alcohol test, then the prosecution might not need to rely on the breathalyzer results in order to obtain a conviction. If the breathalyzer results "don't matter" ("don't matter" in the sense that the results aren't used as evidence in court) then maybe the source code of the breathalyzer machines also "doesn't matter." Maybe the new focus will be on the blood-alcohol tests.

by Katelyn DeRuyter, UMN Law Student, MJLST Note and Comment Editor

I recently typed "legal issues drone usage" into Google and was surprised by what I found. Along with several articles on the U.S.'s drone program (as expected), I was also greeted by reports of an Amazon project to have unmanned aerial drones make deliveries. For those who don't know, Amazon is an online retailer of ... well, almost everything. This drone project, first announced on CBS' '60 Minutes', is called "Prime Air" and may be viable in as few as 4-5 years. While there is wide speculation over whether this project is real or just a publicity stunt, it does present some interesting legal and law-enforcement considerations.

First, the reported facts:

The drones would be autonomous, meaning they would not be remotely piloted. Rather, the small rotorcrafts would use GPS technology to travel to and from delivery addresses. The drones currently being tested have a range of 10 miles and can lift packages weighing up to 5 lbs. Such packages account for approximately 86% of Amazon's deliveries. It is easy to see the business advantages of such a delivery program. However, is this program currently legal?

The Legal Landscape:

Police and various governmental organizations are allowed to fly drones as long as they have obtained FAA approval. Non-governmental use of drones is limited to hobbyists and there are strict restrictions. For example, hobby drones cannot go above 400 feet and must stay within the operator's sight. This will soon change. In early 2012, Congress passed the Reauthorization Act, a $63 billion funding bill for 4 years of FAA funding. One of the provisions of this Act is that the FAA must allow for the wider use of drones for both governmental and commercial use. Specifically, the FAA must allow for commercial use of drones by Sept. 30, 2015.

Given the Reauthorization Act, it seems probable that Amazon's Prime Air, and other similar programs, may soon be legal. However, are such programs advisable? Along with potential liability issues if the drones malfunction and cause injury, there are broader policy issues to be addressed.

Law Enforcement Challenges:

The ability for drone deliveries may be a vast complication for law enforcement. By cutting out USPS, FedEx, UPS and other more "traditional" shipping methods, drone deliveries may also circumvent a lot of the screening and tracking that occurs with shipping. These screening and tracking systems are vital to law enforcement's efforts to detect, stop and prosecute a variety of crimes - spanning from drug trafficking to bioterrorism.

If the law enforcement hurdles can be overcome, and I think it is likely that they can, drone-deliveries will probably become commonplace. It will be interesting to watch how the law adapts to fit this evolving technology.

Please feel free to leave any comments and thoughts!

Cybersecurity: Serious threat or "technopanic"?


by Bryan Dooley, UMN Law Student, MJLST Staff

Thumbnail-Bryan-Dooley.jpgWhile most would likely agree that threats to cybersecurity pose sufficient risk to warrant some level of new regulation, opinions vary widely on the scope and nature of an appropriate response. FBIwebsite-sm-border.jpgThe Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, one of several proposed legislative measures intended to address the problem, has drawn widespread criticism. Concerns voiced by opponents have centered on privacy and the potential for misuse of shared information. Some fear the legislation creates the potential for additional harm by allowing or encouraging private parties to launch counterattacks against perceived security threats, with no guarantee they will always hit their intended targets.

by Bryan Morben, UMN Law Student, MJLST Staff

Thumbnail-Bryan-Morben.jpgThere has been a lot of attention on North Korea and the possibility of a nuclear war lately. In fact, as recently as April 4, 2013, news broke that the increasingly hostile country moved medium-range missiles to its east coastline. It is reported that the missiles do not have enough range to hit the U.S. mainland, but is well within range of the South Korean capital. Tensions have been running high for several months, especially when the North took the liberty to shred the sixty year old armistice that ended the Korean War, and warned the world that "the next step was an act of 'merciless' military retaliation against its enemies."

Time for a New Approach to Cyber Security?


by Kenzie Johnson, UMN Law Student, MJLST Managing Editor

Kenzie Johnson The recent announcements by several large news outlets including the New York Times, Washington Post, Bloomberg News, and the Wall Street Journal reporting that they have been the victims of cyber-attacks have yet again brought cyber security into the news. These attacks reportedly all originated in China and were aimed at monitoring news reporting of Chinese issues. In particular, the New York Times announced that Chinese hackers persistently attacked their servers for a period of four months and obtained passwords for reporters and other Times employees. The Times reported that the commencement of the attack coincided with a story it published regarding mass amounts of wealth accumulated by the family of Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao.


mjlst-logo-button.pngStudies of adolescent brain development have influenced debates on issues such as the constitutionality of the juvenile death penalty, if sentencing juveniles to life without the possibility of parole is moral, to whether states should raise the legal driving age, to permitting minors to obtain an abortion without parental consent. In this lecture, Prof. Steinberg will examine whether burgeoning research on adolescent brain development should influence legal policy.

FBI Face Recognition Concerns Privacy Advocates


by Rebecca Boxhorn, Consortium Research Associate, Former MJLST Staff & Editor

Thumbnail-Rebecca-Boxhorn.jpgHelen of Troy's face launched a thousand ships, but yours might provide probable cause. The FBI is developing a nationwide facial recognition database that has privacy experts fretting about the definition of privacy in a technologically advanced society. The $1 billion Next Generation Identification initiative seeks to harness the power of biometric data in the fight against crime. Part of the initiative is the creation of a facial photograph database that will allow officials to match pictures to mug shots, electronically identify suspects in crowds, or even find fugitives on Facebook. The use of biometrics in law enforcement is nothing new, of course. Fingerprint and DNA evidence have led to the successful incarceration of thousands. What privacy gurus worry about is the power of facial recognition technology and the potential destruction of anonymity.