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Court Rules Abandoned Cell Phone was…well…Abandoned

Posted Thursday, March 26, 2015 by Andrew Charles Huff

A cell phone left in an abandoned stolen vehicle by the fleeing suspect can be used for identification without a warrant. This month the Court of Appeals in State v. Sutlej Samalia-Division Three, held that once a cell phone has clearly been abandoned by the owner, they no longer have an “expectation of privacy” in the device and therefore, a search warrant was not needed to search its database for evidence.

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U.S. Supreme Court to Decide on Confederate Flag License Plates

Posted Thursday, March 26, 2015 by Andrew Charles Huff

Can a vehicle’s specialty license plate still fly the Confederate flag …even in Texas? This week, the U.S, Supreme Court will consider whether prohibiting such specialty license plates violates First Amendment free speech rights.

Specialty license plate program are popular in all states but this is the first time the Justices will take up the issue of government establishing rules and private speech in regulating content. In Texas, the group “Sons of Confederate Veterans” applied for a plate featuring the Confederate flag but sued when denied. Texas will argue the speech is actually government speech, and the state has enough discretion over the message.

A decision in the case is expected by early summer.

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Verdict Clear on “Blurred Lines” Copyright Case

Posted Tuesday, March 17, 2015 by Andrew Charles Huff

The performers behind the huge hit “Blurred Lines” got the bad news from a California jury last week…pay up. A federal jury ordered recording artists Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams to pay damages to the estate of Marvin Gaye for copyright infringement with the hit “Blurred Lines,” finding $4 million in damages plus profits. The jury ordered Thicke to pay $1.8 million and Williams $1.6 million. Both escaped statutory damages as the infringement was found not to be willful.

“Blurred Lines,” one of the most successful songs of the young century, was improperly drawn from the soulful 1977 “Got to Give It Up” according to the jury.

The verdict over a song that made more than $16 million in profits should resonate in the music industry where copyright lawsuits are commonplace, but most disputes are settled out of court, with few claims ever making it to trial. Not only did the “Blurred Lines” case go the distance, both sides brought esteemed entertainment litigators to testify for the jury.

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Knock and Talk” Rule Further Defined by Court of Appeals

Posted Friday, March 6, 2015 by Andrew Charles Huff

The 1998 case of State v. Ferrier held that before entering a citizen’s home without a warrant, police must ask them for consent, inform them they can revoke consent and notify the citizen that they may limit the scope of the search. These are commonly referred to as the Ferrier Warnings and are used by police in situations where a police officer does not have a search warrant but instead intends to seek permission to enter and search a home. These warnings must be read in their entirety before a police officer requests entry into a home without a warrant.

But what happens when police fail to read all these warnings prior to entry but then reads all the warnings once they enter the home and begin to search it? The Court of Appeals in State v. Budd recently answered that question and held that a police officer mist read all the warnings before entering the home even if they read the full warnings after entry but before the search. In other words, a partial reading of these warnings is not sufficient even if fully read later.

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Warrant or No Warrant-State Supreme Court to Decide

Posted Tuesday, February 24, 2015 by Andrew Charles Huff

Most people do not realize that law enforcement officials do not have to get a search warrant from a judge to obtain private bank, phone, email and other records. Currently, prosecutors have been able to get these records without showing probable cause — the standard that applies to search warrants. Instead, they can get this information with a subpoena issued in a secret hearing called a “special inquiry.”

That could change, as Washington’s Supreme Court will hear arguments on whether police investigators should have to get a search warrant to obtain these records.

Many attorneys argue this current procedure is a violation of Washington’s Constitution, which is considered to be more protective of people’s privacy than the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Prosecutors argue that the hearings are akin to grand jury proceedings without the grand jury — that they’re an efficient way to tackle complex crimes and that they do meet constitutional requirements.

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