The Constitution is the final say on the rights of U.S. citizens, but often these rights need interpretation and clarification to determine if a violation has occurred. When this happens, federal courts will review a case and make a ruling. One of the most commonly ruled upon amendments is the Fourth Amendment, which provides the rights of privacy against unlawful search, seizure, and audio and visual recording. Decisions from federal courts on citizens' rights should be closely watched by civilian and military legal counsel alike to better inform their defense services going forward.
The recent case of United States v. Webster, which was reviewed by the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, hinged upon whether the defendant's Fourth Amendment rights were violated. In this case, Mr. Webster and his accomplice, Mr. Jones, had been detained by police in the caged back seat of a squad car. As officers tried to obtain a search warrant to inspect the residence Mr. Webster and Mr. Jones had just been seen exiting, Mr. Webster and Mr. Jones were left in the squad car, unattended, for approximately eight minutes.
During these eight minutes, Mr. Webster made a series of phone calls. These calls, recorded by the squad car's internal cameras, were entered in as evidence against Mr. Webster in his eventual trial. He later appealed to suppress the calls and some of the conversations he had with Mr. Jones in the squad car, claiming that he had not known he was being recorded and his Fourth Amendment rights had been violated.
The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals had several key elements to consider in this case:
- Whether Mr. Webster could reasonably expect privacy in the car
- Whether society would reasonably expect privacy in the car
- Whether Mr. Webster demonstrated he believed he had privacy
Ultimately, the court upheld the previous decision that, reasonably, one should not expect privacy in squad car cabin. Additionally, Mr. Webster had waited for officers to leave the car before making his phone calls, demonstrating that he had not expected privacy in this environment and that communication devices in the squad car were plainly visible to all passengers.
PROCEEDING WITH CAUTION WHILE IN CUSTODY
If you are suspected of a crime and law enforcement is involved, your circumstances and behavior become extremely sensitive to further scrutiny. In the case of Mr. Webster, while he was not arrested or Mirandized, he was detained and his behavior ended up hurting his case and complicating his charges. Mr. Webster, like all those suspected of criminal activity, should have proceeded carefully, waited to see if an arrest was going to be made, and only spoken in the presence of proper legal counsel.
If you are military member facing a criminal charge and need experienced, effective counsel on your side, call Joseph L. Jordan, Attorney at Law. Attorney Jordan serves as an advocate for military personnel all over the globe and works tirelessly to obtain the best possible outcomes for his clients' cases. Call our firm today to schedule a free consultation with our dedicated military defense lawyer.