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Madison Legal Blog

New WI law limits police ability to seize cash

Wisconsin lawmakers recently passed a new civil forfeiture law.

What is civil forfeiture? Civil forfeiture is essentially the ability of police officers to seize cash from those who are suspected of criminal activity. Officers will seize property based on this legal theory in an effort to end criminal activity. Although this seems like a noble practice, the reality of civil forfeiture has raised questions.

JEREMY, KAITLIN AND TONY, GONE TOO SOON

156 PAINTING.jpgThis picture is of a painting of the drafty, rambling barn of a house in which my 10 siblings and I grew up. It was hotter than blazes in summer and suitable for meat storage in winter. The fridge was empty, but for milk, margarine and dad's shirts awaiting the iron. We slept in beds together and we fought like dogs together. Our social media had a rotary dial and a party line. Our gaming involved lumber and leather. We were spanked a little, fed a little more, clothed enough and loved a lot - the toughest love you ever felt from a shoe or a belt or a wooden spoon. And all 11 of us are still here. Our parents are gone, yet their DNA and their favorite Catholic epithets live on in the eleven of us.

But something has changed since we raced up and down the wooden stairs of that old gray-blue house. Something is different now. Something is worse now. There's something none of our parents ever had to do, and there's something we never had to do as their kids. And I was reminded of that again today. A painful reminder.

SCOTUS and the 4th Amendment: Are privacy rights under attack?

The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) provides rulings that are law throughout the country. These rulings often address matters that are integral to the workings of the criminal justice system. One example: the protections guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment.

New proposal could change OWI laws in Wisconsin

It is currently illegal in Wisconsin to operate a motor vehicle, all-terrain vehicle, utility terrain vehicle, off-highway motorcycle or motorboat when the driver has an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more. This law seems fairly straight forward at first glance, but like many things in the legal world it is very complicated.

Disabled Wisconsin man faces marijuana charges

In April of 2017 police officers conducted a search of a home in Racine. During this search, the officers found $60,223 in cash, packaging materials, scales and 1 and ½ pounds of marijuana. Based on these findings, the man in the home was charged for felony possession with intent to deliver or manufacture tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), maintaining a drug trafficking place and a misdemeanor charge of possession of drug paraphernalia.

The man also lived with his parents. His parents faced charges of maintaining a drug trafficking house. The man was adamant that his parents were not involved, but officers contend that the presence of much of this material within common spaces made it unlikely that the parents were not aware of the allegedly criminal activity.

SCOTUS to consider legality of cellphone location evidence

95 percent of Americans reportedly own a mobile phone. Cellphone owners use these devices for basic communication, navigation, social media and a means to meet work obligations while on the go. Although use of a cellphone is almost a given, one thing that is constantly questioned is the privacy of the information shared on these devices.

This is particularly true when it comes to criminal cases. The courts are often asked to provide guidance on when the information present on a cellphone is fodder for evidence during a criminal case. The most recent question involves location information referred to as cell site location information (CSLI). The tech experts with Wired clarify that CSLI data is gathered as much as once every 7 seconds. 

Facial recognition tech: Easier for police to access your phone?

Smart phones are getting smarter and smarter. Literally. The new iPhone X contains software that allows the device to recognize its owner's face. When in the presence of its owner, the phone will automatically unlock. The software will also continually learn the owner's face. Growing a beard? Getting a new pair of glasses? The phone will adapt and still know its owner.

In theory, this seems like a pretty handy advancement. This software can speed up access to the phone by removing the need to type in a security code. In reality, it could pose a violation of constitutional rights.

WI & drunk driving: New OWI laws in effect, are more to come?

Wisconsin lawmakers are cracking down on drunk driving violations in the state. Lawmakers have found success moving proposals forward and are gaining momentum on others. This piece discusses recent changes that are currently in effect, likely changes in the future and things that are expected to remain the same. It will also clarify how these changes could impact those who are accused of drunk driving.

IoT and evidence: Will your smart home work against you?

It may seem like something straight off the SyFy channel. A tragic death occurs at a home after a group of young men get together to watch a football game. Was it an accident? Was it murder? The police have a way to get evidence about the potential crime - a smart home device that may have been recording conversations during the alleged altercation.

The storyline above, of course, is not the plotline for a movie. It is reality. It involves the tragic death of a young man in Arkansas and is under investigation. Media reports picked up the investigation because it involves a rather novel attempt to get data from an Echo device.

Innocence lost: 3 tips when facing online character assassination

Character assassination is not a new thing. People have dealt with false accusations and presumptions of guilt for generations. Although these attempts are not novel, the process used to achieve this goal has evolved.

Gone are the days when one person would verbally share information with another in an attempt to damage a foe's reputation. Today it only takes the click of a button and false accusations can be shared with millions.

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