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New technology raises issue of search legality

Under the Fourth Amendment to the Bill of Rights, law enforcement officers are prohibited from engaging in unreasonable searches and seizures, and must generally obtain a warrant supported by probable cause in order to conduct a search or make a seizure. With the increase of new technologies, protecting Fourth Amendment rights is more critical now than ever.

For roughly two years now, law enforcement agencies across the United States, including the FBI and the U.S. Marshals Service, have been using powerful radar technology which allows them to determine the presence, location and motions of people inside a home. The technology is reportedly used in criminal investigations for the purpose of keeping officers safe, but privacy concerns abound. 

Although the legality of the “Range-R” technology has not been directly addressed, a federal appellate court commented last month that the issue is bound to come up sooner or later. Constitutional case law has already established that police are unable to scan the outside of homes with thermal cameras without a warrant, and it is likely that the same prohibition would apply to radar-based technologies. Of course, we’ll have to wait and see how the issue is addressed in the federal courts.

When an individual faces serious criminal charges, it is critical to work with an experienced criminal defense attorney in exploring the issue of the legality of police investigative work. When officers obtain incriminating evidence illegally and prosecutors rely on that evidence to support charges, a criminal defendant’s ability to protect his or her rights depends on knowledge of the law, experience in the courtroom and zealous advocacy.

Source: USA Today, “New police radars can ‘see’ inside homes,” Brad Heath, Jan. 20, 2015. 

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