Legal News

New Cybersecurity Bill Passed by Senate Creates Privacy Concerns

150 150 Joel Leppard

cybersecurity

A new bill called the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA) was passed by the Senate on Tuesday. Its main goal is to stop hackers by getting companies to share information with the federal government about any cyber attacks they face. Basically, CISA works by works by letting companies share “cyber threat indicators” with the Department of Homeland Security, which then sends out a red alert to warn other people of the threat.

You may be thinking: Don’t companies already have initiatives in place to share threat information? Yes. But what makes CISA different is that Homeland Security can now share the report with the National Security Agency and other spy agencies.

One huge concern is that nowhere in the bill does it say customers’ personally identifiable information has to be left out of the report. In fact, of the countless amendments made to the bill, one necessary amendment that actually failed on Tuesday would have made it mandatory to remove that information before a company could share information about threats.

Here’s another catch: Although a company’s cooperation in sharing information is voluntary, the bill gives companies a nice incentive to do so by eliminating legal liability. For example, if a company ends up sharing too much information about its customers, it won’t have to worry about private lawsuits or antitrust laws.

CISA opposers believe that the bill ignores the goal of encouraging companies to increase their cybersecurity standards and puts more responsibility on a “generalized public-private secret information sharing network.” In other words, opponents say CISA creates a new law in the wrong places.

Learn more here: http://www.npr.org/sections/alltechconsidered/2015/10/27/452338925/senate-approves-cybersecurity-bill-what-you-need-to-know

Florida’s Harsh 10-20-Life Law on the Road to Reform

150 150 Joel Leppard

10-20-life

Florida’s harsh 10-20-Life mandatory minimum sentencing law is on a long road to reform, but small steps are being taken to give judges more authority in certain cases.

The 10-20-Life law strictly punishes anyone who is in possession of or actually uses a firearm while committing a crime by imposing a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years, 20 years, or 25 years to life depending on the nature of the crime. For example, if a person simply pulled out a weapon while committing a crime, he or she would have to serve 10 years in jail regardless of the circumstances.

One example of why the 10-20-Life law is too harsh is the August 2010 case involving Marissa Alexander. Alexander shot what she called a warning shot near her ex-husband, who was physically abusive towards her and sent her threatening text messages. The shot did not hurt her ex-husband, yet Alexander was arrested and charged with aggravated assault with a firearm. Under the 10-20-Life law, she was sentenced to 20 years in prison despite having no criminal past. Fortunately, after serving just 3 years in prison, Alexander was released due to a faulty jury instruction in her case.

Although things ended well for Alexander, this is not the typical outcome in most cases. That is why the proposal of a new bill (HB 135) by Florida legislators is a great step in the right direction.  The bill, called the Self-Defense Protection Act, makes exceptions to certain mandatory minimum sentences if the defendant had a justifiable reason to use a firearm.

The bill will not eliminate the entire problem, of course. Some defendants will still be harshly punished under the 10-20-Life law because judges cannot change the sentence to match circumstances, but at least progress is being made and judges will be able to act fairly in the cases in which it applies.

Learn more here: http://www.mypalmbeachpost.com/news/news/opinion/editorial-proposed-bill-chips-away-at-harsh-mandat/nnyLQ/#modal-8250266

Supreme Court Case Could Result in Change in Florida’s Death-Penalty Laws

150 150 Joel Leppard

Florida, Delaware and Alabama are the only states that do not require a unanimous jury decision when sentencing someone to death.  A U.S. Supreme Court case with a ruling expected in 2016, however, could change Florida’s death penalty procedure.

Timothy Hurst, a man currently on Death Row for murder, is appealing his death sentence. Jurors in his case recommended death by a 7-5 vote, but Hurst’s attorneys argue that allowing this sentence without a unanimous jury is a violation of Hurst’s Sixth Amendment rights.

The sentencing of hundreds of other people on Florida’s Death Row could be impacted if the Supreme Court rules in favor of Hurst. Former Jacksonville State Attorney Harry Shorstein said the impact of the issue could be avoided if it is fixed legislatively instead of in court.

Legislation that would change the law to require a unanimous jury recommendation of death has already been introduced into the Florida House and Senate, however. The issue with both bills is that they have been sponsored by Democrats, and the majority of people in the Florida House and Senate are Republican.

Rep. Rob Bradley, who is on the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, does not believe legislation regarding the death penalty is likely to pass during the 2016 legislative session. He voted for a similar bill in 2015, but the legislation went nowhere in the House.

Bradley personally believes that the Supreme Court will deem Florida’s sentencing procedures unconstitutional in the Hurst case, which makes it more likely that the issue will be dealt with in the 2017 regular session.

For more information, please read: http://jacksonville.com/news/crime/2015-10-11/story/former-jacksonville-state-attorney-joins-others-calling-change-florida.

Policing for Profit

150 150 Joel Leppard

GOOD-Cops-Main

Civil forfeiture laws allow police to seize your property, sell it and use the money to fund agency budgets. This means your car, cash, real estate or other property can be taken from you even if you are not convicted or charged with a crime.

I’m sure you are wondering how your property can be taken from you if you are not involved in any criminal activity. The answer to that is: Civil forfeiture is basically a way for the courts to try inanimate objects for their involvement with criminal activity. That is why civil forfeiture actions are in rem proceedings, which means “against or about a thing.”

Originally, civil forfeiture was created to drain resources from powerful criminal organizations, but today it has become a way of funding for law enforcement agencies and has also led to personal gain.  According to a 2003 article in the St. Petersburg Times, Tampa Bay police seized and kept cars for their own use. “The seized fleet consisted of some 42 cars, including a Lincoln Navigator, a Ford Expedition, and, Police Chief Bennie Holder’s favorite, a $38,000 Chevy Tahoe.”

In Florida, law enforcement must prove with clear and convincing evidence that the property being seized was related to criminal activity. Although this is a higher standard than most other states, it still puts property owners at a disadvantage. This is because unlike a criminal forfeiture case, in which the government has to prove someone is guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt,” the standards in a civil forfeiture case are much less rigorous. According to the Institute for Justice, “law enforcement in Florida still receives 85 percent of the funds generated from civil forfeiture.”

It is also a misconception that most people who have their property seized are wealthy. Some low-income families who do not have the resources to get their property back are also targeted by law enforcement. Regardless of socioeconomic status, it is not fair that likely innocent people are being stripped of their property without ever being convicted of a crime.

 

For more information, please read:

The Institute for Justice’s Initiative to End Policing for Profit

The Huffington Post article “Above the Law: New DPA Report Finds ‘Policing for Profit’ Gone Wild”

Bail in America: A Tool of Coercion

150 150 Joel Leppard

man-in-prison

The Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution explicitly states that “excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed.” However, bail in America has evolved in such a way that it has become less of a tool for keeping people out of jail and more of a tool to coerce low-income defendants to enter a “guilty” plea because they cannot afford it.

Let’s look at an example from the New York Times’ article “The Bail Trap” of how bail keeps the criminal-justice system afloat: In 2013, New York processed 365,000 arraignments. Of those cases, less than 5 percent actually went to trial. However, even if a small portion of those defendants decided to assert their right to trial, it would be too overwhelming for criminal courts to handle. So, forcing defendants to plead guilty actually makes it easier on the courts.

A 2012 report by the New York City Criminal Justice Agency also shows that about 50 percent of defendants in non-felony cases who did not have to stay locked up before their trials, either because no bail was set or because they were able to afford it, were eventually convicted. When defendants had to stay in jail until their cases were resolved, the conviction rate jumped to a whopping 92 percent! The report is based on 10 years of criminal statistics and concludes that even pretrial detention itself “creates enough pressure to increase guilty pleas.”

Bail doesn’t just affect defendants during the time they are incarcerated – it has long-term effects too. Scott Hechinger, a senior trial attorney with Brooklyn Defender Services, said “Most of our clients are people who have crawled their way up from poverty or are in the throes of poverty. Our clients work in service-level positions where if you’re gone for a day, you lose your job. People in need of caretaking — the elderly, the young — are left without caretakers. People who live in shelters, where if they miss their curfews, they lose their housing. Folks with immigration concerns are quicker to be put on the immigration radar. So when our clients have bail set, they suffer on the inside, they worry about what’s happening on the outside, and when they get out, they come back to a world that’s more difficult than the already difficult situation that they were in before.”

Learn more about “the bail trap” here: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/16/magazine/the-bail-trap.html

Central Florida Law Enforcement Agency Interested in Buying Hacking Team Technology

150 150 Joel Leppard

Hacker

Wikileaks, a website that posts original documents from anonymous sources, has recently leaked e-mails between the Metropolitan Bureau of Investigation (MBI) and the Italian company Hacking Team that show the MBI’s desire to purchase spyware technology that would enable the agency to infiltrate phones and computers.

The MBI is a multi-agency task force in Orlando that covers Osceola and Orange counties and includes members from State Attorney’s Office, Orlando Police Department, Orange County Sherriff’s department as well as other local police agencies and the DEA, FBI, ICE, Secret Service and other agencies. Hacking Team is a company that uses computer viruses to help law enforcement and national security organizations gain access to targeted networks.

Ironically, Hacking Team itself has been hacked in the past. The hackers exposed documents on a Twitter page titled “Hacked Team” that showed evidence of the company working with numerous repressive governments such as Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Russia, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, many of whom have been criticized by international human rights organizations for aggressively monitoring journalists and other freedom activists. This is alarming because it essentially means that the MBI is using tax payer money to associate itself with and support a company that provides support for terrorists.

The recently leaked documents between the MBI and Hacking Team show that the MBI wants to purchase spyware called Galileo from the company. Galileo, which can be installed on phones and computers, will allow law enforcement officials to see what a targeted suspect is seeing in real time. The police would also be able to track the suspect’s movements. MBI director Larry Zweig even told the Orlando Sentinel that the task force wants to be able to track drug and human trafficking organizations through apps like Snapchat.

The MBI’s collaboration with Hacking Team wouldn’t be the first time that the agency has tried to use questionable methods to obtain evidence of criminal activity. In 1981, the MBI arrested 10 men on charges of running a football gambling ring after wire tapping two phones. The agency, however, was only permitted to tap one phone as part of the investigation. Therefore, none of the defendants went to jail.

In another instance, the MBI enlisted an alleged drug dealer named Donna Jean Gallagher as an informant in 1985. She later claimed that “she stole cocaine during MBI investigations to feed a habit agents knew about but did nothing to stop, was gang-raped by drug dealers while working for the agency and had sex with two of her supervising agents.” The agents were consequently fired.

If the MBI uses Galileo in its investigations, the agency needs to make sure that it filters out information obtained from people who are not targets of the investigation. In doing so, the MBI would be violating Title III of the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets act of 1968. If the agency’s past transgressions say anything about the future of the MBI + Hacking Team partnership, however, it’s that there may be significant privacy concerns ahead.

Additional information:

This week, NPR 90.7 aired an interview Florida Center for Investigative Reporting reported Trevor Aaronson, who voices some of the concerns with providing MBI with this powerful technology. http://www.wmfe.org/fcir-leaked-documents-show-mbis-interest-in-surveillance-software/

Read the MBI and Hacking Team emails here:
https://wikileaks.org/hackingteam/emails/?q=randall+pennington&mfrom=&mto=&title=&notitle=&date=&nofrom=&noto=&count=50&sort=0#searchresult

Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!