Category Archives: 4th Amendment – Search & Seizure

Major Allegations of Misconduct at Naples PD

The Naples Police Department is currently fighting a Federal lawsuit for police misconduct, and the allegations that have come out in the course of the case are more and more shocking. In an affidavit filed Monday, a former Naples officer stated that he and his fellow officers were “constantly pressured” to increase numbers for arrests, stops, and citations, and that supervisors would chastise officers who did not “produce statistics”. The affidavit makes it sound as though the department had a de facto quota system that encouraged officers to be reckless.

The lawsuit claims over a million dollars in damages against former Officer Kyle Bradshaw, who has since left the department. The city was dismissed from the case, but could still end up on the hook for at least part of the damages Bradshaw could be facing. Bradshaw’s attorney contends he was just doing his job. Naples police, including Bradshaw, initially responded to Bayfront for a noise complaint, and things escalated quickly. There is video of the incident, which has been played to the jury for dramatic effect for the beating allegedly given to the suspects. The trial continues in Fort Myers this week.

Cape Coral PD Breaks into the Wrong Home- Scares Little Old Lady

ccpdAs if Cape Coral did not have enough trouble with some of the bad warrants they had last year as a result of the Kordelle McKissack situation we helped uncover last year, you’d think they would have really buttoned down their warrant procedure. Alas, it was reported today that SWAT broke in the door of the apartment of a 78-year old little old lady, and they were at the wrong apartment. The last one cost them several cases, and no arrest was made this time… but it will likely cost them a lot of money. The woman has post-traumatic stress disorder, and is preparing a lawsuit.

The Department claims they were technically and procedurally correct. I disagree. If you break in the door for an innocent little old lady, you’re not just failing to achieve excellence. You are seriously doing something wrong. Let’s hope that this leads to better procedures to stop these things from happening. Unfortunately, the legal remedy is for them to be punished financially through a lawsuit. We all have to pay for their incompetence, but there must be a ramification so that these mistakes teach a lesson.

Here’s my Interview about Stringrays on NBC-2

122316bNBC-2 posted the story online that included my interview about the use of cell-phone tower imitators, that go by the brand name of Stingrays, and how they are being used to collect people’s data. There are still a lot of questions about the use of these devices, in part because the government is being so secretive about it. In many cases, their use can be legal, but they should definitely implement oversight, and get oversight from the courts by seeking warrants when they are being used.

For more in the issue, USA Today has been following the issue, and has a section devoted to it, here: http://www.usatoday.com/topic/f764896f-76b5-4789-a58e-e333b9b5bcfc/cellphone-surveillance/

And here is the NBC-2 story from last night: http://www.nbc-2.com/story/34124137/cell-phone-interceptors-used-by-govt-agency-to-gather-information

Attorney Cordell will talk Privacy on NBC-2 Tonight

me nbc2b

Attorney Spencer Cordell

This week the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform released a bipartisan report calling for standards on how cell-phone tower simulators, known as Stingrays, are used by government agencies. We don’t know how extensively they are being used, or even how much data they are able to collect: not just from criminals, but from average citizens whose phones get caught up. We do know there have been abuses in the past.

NBC-2 is doing a story tonight, and I may show up with some comments. The Stingray, and the secrecy around the agencies’ use of the technology is troubling. There are legal means to use technology, the most straightforward is just to get a warrant. We encourage standards and oversight, especially in Florida, which leads the country in Stingray use.

Tune in to NBC-2 tonight at 6 p.m.

Federal Court Throws out Stingray Evidence

This week a federal court ruled that evidence collected by use of a Stingray was inadmissible where a warrant was not obtained. Stingrays are devices that mimic cell phone towers. They allow government agents to track the whereabouts of cell phones without the knowledge of the cell phone users. It is unknown how many agencies employ the use of Stingrays, because they also promise to keep them secret when they acquire them.

The DOJ issued a policy that their agents are supposed to get warrants before using the devices. That was a smart move, predicting the legal outcome when the Stingray evidence was challenged. This investigation occurred before that change in policy, and if the Feds had continued to collect this evidence without warrants… a lot more cases would be in Jeopardy. The DOJ policy does not govern local law enforcement agencies, who stand to have a lot of evidence in jeopardy if they have not been obtaining warrants, in light of this Federal Court decision.

Here’s the Story from NBC regarding Surveillance Cameras I was Quoted

me nbc2b

Atty Spencer Cordell on NBC-2 [Who Dey]

The link is up from last night’s NBC-2 follow-up story regarding use of surveillance cameras. The law is a little unclear, but there’s no doubt the best practice is for law enforcement to get a warrant when they are going to use the cameras: even the guy from the camera company recommends it. And everybody, prosecutors and defense attorneys, agree that when video surveillance is used, it needs to be disclosed when a case goes forward. My friend Rene Suarez, who is quoted at the beginning of the story, makes a great point: if the use of video cameras is not disclosed, it shuts the judicial system out of the analysis regarding the legality of the tactics. That’s eliminating judicial oversight. If nothing is being done inappropriately, the investigators should have nothing to hide.

Here’s a link to the story, I will try to embed it, below.

NBC-2.com WBBH News for Fort Myers, Cape Coral & Naples, Florida

And here’s a link to our story yesterday.

Is Law Enforcement Hiding Video Evidence?

NBC-2, which has been doing several pieces on the use of video cameras by law enforcement, continues to examine concerns about the practice in SW Florida. They ran a story yesterday that indicates that video surveillance is being used, and not disclosed, in the course of certain investigations. The story told by former prosecutor Stephanie Hoffman in that article was especially troubling: law enforcement did not reveal the use of video cameras until the middle of a trial of a drug dealer. The late disclosure meant not only a discovery violation, but that the prosecutor had to reduce the charge and offer probation instead of the mandatory prison sentence because she was afraid if she had gone forward with the trial, that the case would have been thrown out of court.

NBC-2 spoke to me about the story, so watch for the follow up, tonight. I have the benefit of the perspective of having been on both sides since I was a prosecutor before I was a defense attorney. My take, from either side of the aisle is, if there is video being taken, it should be disclosed. The Supreme Court has made it very clear that the government doesn’t just get to use the good evidence and pretend the bad evidence doesn’t exist. The accused has an absolute right to see evidence that may suggest their innocence, known as “Brady Evidence”.

And if I was a prosecutor, and there was video of narcotics traffic at the house of an accused drug dealer, you’re darn right I’m going to want to know about that evidence, too! All evidence that gets collected needs to be disclosed, otherwise we lose confidence in the fairness of the justice system: which is bad for everyone.