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Articles by Anthony Accurso

Stinging Back: Resisting Government Surveillance of Cellphones

by Anthony W. Accurso

A cell-site simulators (“CSS”)—often referred to as a “Stingray” device, after a popular brand—is one of the newest and most controversial law enforcement tools since the introduction of the wiretap. Its use represents the intersection of four trends in policing: (1) the increasing use of military tools ...

Tech Monopolies Prevent Effective Privacy Laws in the U.S.

by Anthony W. Accurso 

Cory Doctorow’s latest book, The Internet Con: How to Seize the Means of Computation, discusses the relationship between the failure to regulate tech monopolies in the United States and the meteoric rise of government spying, tying the lack of effective privacy legislation to a subtle shift ...

Police Body Cameras, A Decade Later

by Anthony W. Accurso

It has been 10 years since body-worn cameras (“BWCs”) were posited as a solution to the lack of accountability in police murders of citizens, but police are still largely unaccountable, in part because the footage is often difficult to obtain.

At least 1,201 people were killed ...

Use of Solitary Confinement on the Rise in ICE Facilities

by Anthony W. Accurso

The Biden Administration’s rhetoric on justice and human rights issues may sound good, but a new report reveals that the use of solitary confinement—which is often in conditions the United Nations (“U.N.”) has declared amount to torture—is actually increasing in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) ...

California Court of Appeal: Traffic Stop Prolonged for Drug Dog Sniff Search Unrelated to ‘Mission’ of Stop Violates Fourth Amendment

by Anthony W. Accurso

The Court of Appeal of California, Fourth Appellate District, overturned the denial of a defendant’s motion to suppress, holding that the officer impermissibly extended a traffic stop to conduct a drug dog sniff around the exterior of the defendant’s vehicle.

Officer Anthony McGlade of the Anaheim Police Department received a tip about a black pickup truck that “had acted suspiciously” around the Tampico motel, where “drug trafficking was a problem.” No further details were provided other than that vague statement.

McGlade was on duty with Titan, a narcotics detection dog. He located and followed the suspect vehicle until the driver allegedly executed an improper lane change, and he initiated a traffic stop, activating his body camera.

McGlade made contact with the driver, Joseph Gyorgy. He obtained Gyorgy’s California driver’s license but then proceeded to ask him “several questions, including whether Gyorgy was on probation or parole, whether he was a narcotics or sex registrant, whether he had any needles or sharp objects in the truck, and whether he had any weapons or drugs in the truck.” Importantly, according to the record, other than obtaining Gyorgy’s driver’s license, there is no indication that McGlade or any other ...

Pharmacies Are Giving Your Prescription Data to Police Without a Warrant

by Anthony W. Accurso

Following a congressional investigation, some lawmakers wrote a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) about how the eight largest pharmacy chains provide patient prescription information to police without requiring a warrant, and only one regularly notifies customers when it discloses this private data.

Conducting the investigation were Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), along with representatives Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) and Sarah Jacobs (D-CA). They obtained briefings from the eight major pharmacy chains: CVS Health, Walgreens Boots Alliance, Cigna, Optum Rx, Walmart Stores Inc., The Kroger Co. Rite Aid Corp., and Amazon Pharmacy. Such a review became more urgent since nearly “one in three women ages 15 to 44 …, a [Washington] Post analysis found, live in states where abortion is fully or mostly banned.”

“[W]e learned that each year law enforcement agencies secretly obtain the prescription records of thousands of Americans without a warrant. In many cases, pharmacies are handing over sensitive medical records without review by a legal professional,” the lawmakers wrote in their letter to HHS.

While five of the companies require internal review by legal professionals prior to releasing data, three companies—CVS, Kroger, and Rite Aid—said that “their staff are instructed ...

California Attorney General Issues Memo Prohibiting Out-of-State Sharing of ALPR Data

by Anthony W. Accurso

Rob Bonta, the Attorney General for the state of California, issued a memo to law enforcement agencies in the state, which interprets SB 34 and forbids them from sharing with out-of-state agencies data collected from automated license plate readers (“ALPRs”).

ALPRs are controversial. They record license plate numbers as a vehicle passes a camera, mounted on a traffic light, highway sign, or a patrol vehicle. The license plate number is paired with a timestamp and a location, which can be used to infer that the vehicle’s owner was in a particular place at that time. This implicates privacy concerns, especially when a woman from a state with abortion restrictions travels to California. But California agencies have been collecting this data and sharing it with hundreds of out-of-state agencies, including U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (“CBP”) and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”).

The California state Legislature passed SB 34 in 2015, requiring basic safeguards for the use of ALPRs, which includes a prohibition on California agencies from sharing data with non-California agencies.

Since then, the ACLU of California, MuckRock News, and the Center for Human Rights and Privacy have used public records requests to demonstrate that ...

Utah Supreme Court Announces Communication of Cellphone Passcode Protected by Fifth Amendment and Rules Advising Jury of Defendant’s Refusal to Disclose Passcode Violates Privilege Against Compelled Self-Incrimination

by Anthony W. Accurso

In a case of first impression, the Supreme Court of Utah held that production of a cellphone passcode is “testimonial” for purposes of the Fifth Amendment and that the State violated the defendant’s privilege against self-incrimination rights when it mentioned his refusal to disclose the passcode at trial.

Alfonso Valdez and “Jane” had dated and lived together but were separated. According to allegations by Jane, after a conversation by text message, the two met in a parking lot, ostensibly for Valdez to give Jane mail that had arrived since she moved out. However, once she approached his SUV, he produced a gun, forced her to enter the vehicle, and proceeded to verbally and physically assault her. She eventually escaped but did so without her cellphone and purse.

Police arrested Valdez, confiscated his cellphone, and obtained a warrant to search it. Valdez refused to make any statement during questioning, and he refused to provide the swipe pattern for his phone. The detective attempted to compel production of the code by saying they had obtained the warrant and that if Valdez refused, they would open it anyway with the assistance of a lab, but this process would destroy ...

The FBI’s Rapidly Expanding DNA Database

by Anthony W. Accurso

The FBI has amassed over 20 million DNA profiles in its database and has requested Congress double its budget for handling DNA samples “to process the rapidly increasing number of DNA samples collected.”

The Combined DNA Index System, or CODIS, is the FBI’s centrally searchable repository for DNA profiles maintained by the agency. It started in the early 1990s but was formalized as a central database in 1998. At first, it was limited to samples from crime scenes, unidentified remains, and people convicted of sex crimes.

“If you look back at when CODIS was established, it was originally for violent or sexual offenders,” said Anna Lewis, a Harvard researcher specializing in the ethics of genetics research. “The ACLU warned that this was going to be a slippery slope, and that’s indeed what we’ve seen.”

Now, all states and federal jurisdictions collect DNA from individuals convicted of any felony, and 28 states collect samples from people arrested on suspicion of a felony, regardless of whether they are eventually convicted.

“It changed massively,” said Lewis. “You only have to be a person of interest to end up in these databases.”

In April 2023, FBI director Christopher Wray testified ...

Taxpayers Foot the Bill for Police Training on How to Violate Constitutional Rights

by Anthony W. Accurso

Until recently, police departments in New Jersey were covering expenses for their officers to attend training sessions conducted by Street Cop Training (“SCT”), an organization that encourages “a hypervigilant warrior mentality” and trains officers to consider an arbitrary and contradictory list of behaviors as reasons to detain civilians.

SCT was founded in 2012 by Dennis Benigno. He was a Woodbridge, New Jersey, police officer until 2015. At an Atlantic City conference in October 2021, SCT provided training to current officers by current and former officers. Over the six-day conference, SCT trained nearly 1,000 officers, according to a report by Kevin Walsh, New Jersey’s acting Comptroller. Their employers paid the expenses—$499 for training but also travel, lodging, and time off—meaning taxpayers were indirectly subsidizing SCT’s operations.

When officers have a reasonable, articulable basis to believe a person has, is, or about to, commit a crime, police can detain that person, usually driving a vehicle, to conduct a brief investigation.

SCT teaches officers that “every interaction with a civilian” is “a potential deadly threat.” Officers are warned that any person, once detained, could “take your fucking life in a second,” so they should “treat every motor vehicle stop ...

 

 

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