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Another No Win Predicament
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The Spectator
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 by Laramie Boyd
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2013 Spectator Ron - The Spectator All Rights Reserved
C
        There have been several criminal court cases recently where the prosecution used the latest technology to get a conviction, and also where defendants used the same type information in their defense. Cell phones and computers that store information make for compelling alibis and/or incriminating evidence in such circumstances. And, as usual, there are two views regarding whether the use of such technological data in court is constitutional or not. One view cites the possibility that one's privacy is being invaded, and that without a search warrant the police have no right to go through a person's belongings. And the other view holds that such stored material can be a tremendous weapon in bringing criminals to justice, or get an acquittal for an innocent victim, so that suspected law breakers stopped by the police can't object to the content of their personal possessions being scrutinized, and that no search warrant should be required. So the issue may soon land in the laps of the U.S. Supreme Court.
        Another tough decision has to be made by the Court, and the complications involved in whichever direction the justices may decide are easy to identify. Should the police have the power and authority, with or without a search warrant, to snoop into what some citizens believe to be their private lives: their medical history, their financial standing, maybe even their religion and political views, anything that the person may have talked to someone about, or shown to someone that was stored on their hand held device? Or, just as crucial, should warrants ever be given to "invade" someone's "privacy?" Should what people say or what they do, in private, be open for government inspection at any time, let alone when they are rightly or wrongly accused of a crime? Should being stopped for running a red light be cause for a police officer to ransack the driver's automobile to open up the contents of their tech devices? An answer of no to these and other related questions would be hard to argue against.
        The other side of that coin seems just as compelling to some. Should a rapist, or mass murderer, or drug dealer, or other heinous criminal be set free when information exists that could be instrumental in their imprisonment? Should anyone "get away with murder" even if there is probable evidence for a conviction that simply requires getting information from a cell phone? Does "prejudicial" evidence mean evidence that would help put a killer where he belongs, and should it be inadmissible in a trial simply because it was discovered in a cell phone search, without a search warrant?
        Do we really want pedophiles and mass murderers to go free because a police officer reported evidence of criminal activity on a cell phone? On the other hand, is prosecuting a violent criminal worth sacrificing our "right" to privacy? It's hard to find the truth sometimes, and to know what's best. This is one of those times. Let's hope some kind of intelligent rationale goes into the solution of this sticky problem, and not the same old kind of resolution based on partisan politics and attempts to garner votes.