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LE & the 4th Amendment in the Digital Age

Course length


About the course

Technology is a tool that can assist law enforcement in solving crimes. Law Enforcement officers must understand the legal issues and limitations under the Fourth Amendment in order to ensure that evidence is not suppressed. In the digital age issues and technology change almost daily. Technology advances at the dawn of the 21 century bring not only technological improvements but also questions for how law enforcement can harness and use it and where the limitations are for citizens. The United States is a country of over 396 million cell phone accounts
Topics to be explored in this class include Smart phones, Smart cars, surveillance drones, smart doorbells and citizens digital cameras, Cell-Site Simulators, Automated License Plate Readers, Reverse Location Searches, Cell Tower Dumps, Geofence Searches, cell phones, Internet Browser History and other technologies and legal issues, challenges and limitations for law enforcement. Geofencing presents a number of novel legal questions under the Fourth Amendment. The issue of digital data and personal location information maintained by a third party—does not fit neatly under existing precedents but lies at the intersection of two lines of cases.
Participants will explore US Supreme Court cases dealing with technology and the Fourth Amendment as well as examples of cases from the Eastern District of Virginia.

Digital data stored on a cell phone cannot itself be used as a weapon to harm an arresting officer or to effectuate the arrestee’s escape. Law enforcement officers remain free to examine the physical aspects of a phone to ensure that it will not be used as a weapon—say, to determine whether there is a razor blade hidden between the phone and its case. Once an officer has secured a phone and eliminated any potential physical threats, however, data on the phone can endanger no one.
Riley v. California
U.S. Supreme Court

What exactly can a patrol officer do with technology to make sure that evidence does not get suppressed?
Participants will receive a primer of case law from all the technology and Fourth Amendment cases that the US Supreme Court and the Fourth Circuit has decided and will look ahead at how Fourth Amendment jurisprudence might continue to develop in the digital age.

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