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Tag: warrant

Gambling Case Postponed While Judge Decides Wether FBI Overstepped Authority

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com 

A federal judge has postponed an illegal Internet gambling trial to determine whether FBI agents went beyond the law when they entered Las Vegas hotel suites without a warrant and obtained information from the computers of the suspects, the Associated Press reports.

The Jan. 12 trial date was vacated pending a ruling on the warrantless search.

U.S. Magistrate Juge Peggy Leen said she expects to decide soon whether the rights of Wei Seng Phua and his son Darren Kit Phua were violated.

Defense attorneys argued the case she be tossed out because agents had no right to pose as repairman to fix bogus Internet problems.

New York Times: FBI Deception Goes Too Far in Investigating Gambling Ring

New York Times 
Editorial Board

If your Internet service goes down and you call a technician, can you be certain that the person who arrives at your door is actually there to restore service? What if he is a law enforcement agent in disguise who has disabled the service so he can enter your home to look around for evidence of a crime?

Americans should not have to worry about scenarios like this, but F.B.I. agents used this ruse during a gambling investigation in Las Vegas in July. Most disturbing of all, the Justice Department is now defending the agents’ actions in court.

During the 2014 World Cup, the agents suspected that an illegal gambling ring was operating out of several hotel rooms at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, but they apparently did not have enough evidence to get a court-issued warrant. So they enlisted the hotel’s assistance in shutting off the Internet to those rooms, prompting the rooms’ occupants to call for help. Undercover agents disguised as repairmen appeared at the door, and the occupants let them in. While pretending to fix the service, the agents saw men watching soccer matches and looking at betting odds on their computers.

There is nothing illegal about visiting sports-betting websites, but the agents relied primarily on that evidence to get their search warrant. What they failed to tell the judge was that they had turned off the Internet service themselves.

Of course, law enforcement authorities regularly rely on sting operations and other deceptive tactics, and courts usually allow them if the authorities reasonably believe they will find evidence of a crime. Without that suspicion, the Constitution prohibits warrantless searches of peoples’ residences, including hotel rooms. The authorities can jump that hurdle if a home’s occupant consents to let them enter, as when an undercover officer is invited into a home to buy drugs.

The Las Vegas case fails on both counts, according to a lawyer for the defendants. Although one of the defendants in the case, Wei Seng Phua, a Malaysian citizen, had been arrested in Macau earlier this year for running an illegal sports-gambling business, the agents did not have probable cause to believe anything illegal was happening in two of the rooms they searched. And a federal prosecutor had initially warned the agents not to use trickery because of the “consent issue.” In fact, a previous ruse by the agents had failed when a person in one of the rooms refused to let them in.

To read more click here.

U.S. Supreme Court Limits Use of Drug-Sniffing Dogs, Citing an Unreasonable Search

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Police who use drug-sniffing dogs outside of homes to detect crimes without a warrant are violating the ban on unreasonable searches, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 Tuesday, the New York Times reports.

In this case, a police dog detected the odor of marijuana outside a Florida house, and authorities used the retriever’s signal to obtain a search warrant.

The Supreme Court ruled that the dog amounted to an unreasonable search barred by the Fourth Amendment. “To find a visitor knocking on the door is routine (even if sometimes unwelcome),” Justice Antonin Scalia wrote. “To spot that same visitor exploring the front porch with a metal detector, or marching his bloodhound into the garden before saying hello and asking permission, would inspire most of us to — well, call the police.”

Justice Department Makes It Easier for Law Enforcement to Obtain Personal E-Mails

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com 

The Justice Department has abandoned it’s long-standing opposition to requiring law enforcement to obtain a warrant before gaining access to certain e-mails, the Washington Post reports.

The department had objected to law enforcement accessing e-mails that are 180 days old or less if they had been unopened, the Post reported.

“There is no principled basis” to treat e-mails differently based on age, said Elana Tyrangiel, acting assistant attorney general in the department’s Office of Legal Policy, said Tuesday while testifying before a House Judiciary Committee.

Tyrangiel also said opened and unopened mail should be treated no differently.

Currently law enforcement may obtain older or opened e-mails with just a subpoena, the Post reported.

Feds to Make Case for Tracking Cell Phone Locations without a Warrant

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Federal authorities will make their case before federal judges that warrantless tracking of cell phone locations is legal, CNET reports.

Federal prosecutors don’t want to ask a judge to approve a warrant before obtaining stored records that reveal the constant movements of mobile phone users over a two-month period, according to CNET.

Location data are useful for police because people almost always carry their cell phones with them, CNET reports.

But many think the warrantless tracking is a violation of privacy rights and should only done with approval from a judge.