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Grand Rapids Criminal Defense Law Blog

Could Apple's FaceID raise Fifth Amendment concerns?

It is expected that people will marvel over the newest release from Apple. The iPhone X is arguably the most advanced smartphone the computer maker has ever produced, and will have major technological updates, such as faster processing, longer battery life and wireless charging.

Perhaps the most ballyhooed updated is the iPhone X’s facial recognition feature (known as FaceID) which enables a user to unlock the phone just by looking at it. This feature basks in practicality given that the new phone does not have a dedicated home button (it has a virtual one instead), but there may be security concerns when it comes to users being compelled by law enforcement to open one’s phone. 

New rules proposed for IRS seizures

Nothing creates anger and frustration like having your property stolen. Whether you are robbed at gunpoint or thieves invaded your home, it is reasonable to believe that you would be fairly angry.

But what if the “thieves” happened to be the federal government, particularly the Internal Revenue Service? It is not uncommon for the IRS to seize property it believes are proceeds of illegal activity or proceeds from transactions structured to avoid Bank Secrecy Act requirements. A study published by the Institute for Justice found that between 2005 and 2012, the IRS seized $242 million in property due to suspicion of BSA violations.

The Scourge of Inadequate Crime Labs

As technology and science continue to advance, it stands to reason that U.S. crime labs would produce increasingly sound results that help implicate or exonerate those accused of committing crimes.

Unfortunately, that is not the case. Government-run crime labs across the nation are in the midst of a crisis that is producing flawed results, which are then used to wrongly convict individuals. Tens of thousands of convictions nationwide have come under review and, in many instances, have been retried due to the actions of careless or flat-out dishonest crime lab employees and directors.

Do police sometimes conduct illegal searches?

We hope our readers had a fund and entertaining Labor Day weekend. In our last post, we highlighted the possibility that law enforcement agencies may overstep their Fourth Amendment constraints by seeking information not necessarily covered in search warrants or attempting to obtain warrants for electronic information without the requisite probable cause.

A prime example of such indifference has gone viral over the Internet. A Salt Lake City police detective arrested an emergency room nurse because she refused to take a blood sample from an unconscious patient. In order to do so, the nurse had to obtain consent in order to perform what would be considered a “search” under the Fourth Amendment since the officer did not have probable cause to order the search. 

Penalties for heroin possession and distribution

Facing a heroin charge is a very serious crime. The punishment you may incur will vary based on the severity of your offense.

There’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to penalizing drug offenders. Every case is unique and requires its own special handling. Depending on your situation, there are a number of ways your case may be managed. While it’s devastating to think about what the future might hold. It’s imperative to remain realistic and understand what you’re up against.

Social media warrants and the Fourth Amendment

It is no secret that law enforcement agencies now rely on social media as means of gathering information to charge individuals with crimes. But where do authorities draw the line between zealous investigations and privacy violations? Chances are that what they believe to be a “legal” search may violate an individual’s Fourth Amendment rights when it comes to searching private social media accounts.

A recent decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit may be instructive. The case involved the investigation of two suspects who were believed to be running a prostitution ring. The government executed two search warrants seeking information; one requiring Microsoft to provide specific emails, and another requiring Facebook to turn over the entire contents of a suspect’s account so that FBI agents could search it for evidence of a crime.  

Parents and teens should talk about 'sexting.'

As a new school year begins, parents of students going into high school are likely concerned about the new friends their children will be making, how their hormones may guide them into questionable decisions, and whether the “puppy love” relationships they forge will change their lives.

This is because courting was not like it was even a generation ago. Today, teens communicate more through social media and text messaging than they may do in person. This also involves taking sexually explicit pictures of themselves and sending them to each other. 

How the state police may decide to cite you

It’s not very often that we talk about traffic violations on this blog, but we find it important enough to discuss them through this post for a variety of reasons. First, with Labor Day weekend coming soon, traffic enforcement will undoubtedly be higher, especially because the possibility of having more drunk drivers and distracted drivers on the road raises the potential for an accident.

Second, traffic violations may have far-reaching implications that can greatly impact a person’s life. Essentially, unresolved violations may turn into bench warrants, which may land an unsuspecting driver in jail.

Martin Shkreli found guilty on several, but not all, counts

A jury reached a verdict last Friday against “the most hated man in America.” Martin Shkreli stood accused of eight criminal counts related to the funding of two hedge funds he managed as well as a biotech company.

Federal prosecutors believed that Shkreli ran his hedge funds like ponzi schemes. In doing so, he was accused of bilking investors out of millions of dollars, only to repay them with stock options and cash that he took from the biotech startup. Shkreli’s counsel claimed that their client had done nothing illegal and was merely the target of unsubstantiated claims ostensibly based on his role in increasing the price of an AIDS drug in 2015. 

'All cash' real estate purchases garnering more scrutiny

Home renovation shows are arguably as popular as they have ever been. Perhaps it is the market driving their notoriety as in Michigan there are a number of distressed properties for investors to purchase and renovate.  One could say that better economic conditions have created a resurgence of “flipping” houses.

An integral part of this process involves purchasing distressed properties with cash. Despite how lucrative flipping can be by using cash, some may think that such purchases are a ruse to hide money earned through illegal activities (e.g. drug trafficking). This notion has grown to a point where the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) has issued several Geographic Targeting Orders (GTOs) in an effort to identify, and possibly investigate, these buyers. 

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