While the media is embroiled in the controversy surrounding the Burwell v. Hobby Lobby decision, the Supreme Court also made a significant Fourth Amendment ruling in People v. Riley, 2014 U.S. LEXIS 44997 (2014). The case creates a bright line rule against warrantless searches of cell phones under the search incident to arrest doctrine (SITA). It is the first SCOTUS decision to bring modern context to antiquated Fourth Amendment jurisprudence. This decision is consistent with the recent trend of SCOTUS decisions affording more protection to the privacy of individuals. See, e.g., McNeely. Read more
“Can I testify via Skype?”
This great question was first posed to us by an international family law client two years ago. While it seemed like a basic inquiry to our client, it took two years to arrive at a definitive answer. The Court of Appeals would only offer guidance once the same case was appealed, on the basis that the trial court abused its discretion when Skype testimony was ultimately allowed. On Feb. 20, 2014, the Court of Appeals Division II issued a decision upholding the use of Skype in Marriage of Swaka. (Marriage of Swaka, 319 P.3d 69 (2014))
We have long supported the use of court calls and witness testimony by phone, but what about Skype, or a similar program that allows for the contemporaneous transmission of testimony without losing the ability for the court to observe the physical attributes, mannerisms, and body language of a witness? What if we could save litigants and witnesses the cost and burden of long-distance travel and increase the information available to the court? Read more
Said the judge to the lawyer: “Counsel, I’ve read your papers, but how does yesterday’s decision in _____________ affect your argument”? Said the lawyer to the judge: “Well, your Honor, I… uh… I’m not familiar with that case.”
Maybe you think this scenario isn’t a real problem. You tell yourself, “If it’s a significant case, I’ll know about it. And if I haven’t heard about it, why then, I’ll just tell the truth. The judge won’t fault me if the case is only a few days old.” But that, of course, depends on expectations, and expectations are changing. Read more
Man’s best friend has taken on an important role in today’s society, far surpassing what Lassie began. We’re familiar with dogs being used in certain capacities: seeing Eye dogs, drug sniff dogs, and even seizure dogs. Law school libraries have even kept dogs on hand during high stress study times to reduce student anxiety. In the past decade, dogs have also been used increasingly in court.
In State v. Dye, the Washington Supreme Court threw prosecutor’s a bone in ruling that use of a facility dog (assigned to the court house to provide comfort to witnesses) was not unduly prejudicial and did not violate the defendant’s right to a fair trial. Washington state has been at the forefront of using canines in court. King County started using them in 2004 and since then, “34 specially trained dogs are at work in 17 states… [and] Skagit, Snohomish, Kitsap, Pierce, and Clark counties.” See Seattle Times Sept. 22, 2012. In fact, the nonprofit organization Courthouse Dogs began right here. Read more
Defense attorneys have argued for years that a breath or blood test constitutes a search and that without a warrant, citizens should have the right to refuse the search without consequence. Washington courts have finally agreed with this argument, and the Court of Appeals recently issued an opinion on the issue in the case of State v. Gauthier.
The court held that a blood test should be considered a search and that, unless presented with a warrant, citizens have the right to refuse such a search. The court also held that the prosecution cannot use the right to refuse against a defendant at trial. The ruling changes the landscape of criminal litigation and not only protects defendants from unreasonable searches and seizures, but also from prejudicial evidence at trial. Read more