Financial Relationship Between Police Chiefs and Taser Raises Questions About Body Cameras

Police departments opting for Taser International’s body-worn cameras may have financial ties to the company.

Officials in states like Utah and New Mexico where police departments have opted to purchase body cameras made by Scottsdale, Arizona based company Taser, are raising conflict-of-interest concerns as several police chiefs appear to be participating in endorsement-like activities.

Travel expenses, including airfare and hotel costs, for police chiefs to speak at promotional conferences were paid for by Taser, according to records recovered by The Associated Press, which is an issue in the eyes of public officials public who have trouble seeing the benefit these engagements provide to their cities.

Charlie Luke, a Salt Lake City councilman, warns that these speaking engagements may cause trouble for police chiefs.

“Department heads need to be very careful to avoid that type of appearance of an endorsement in a for-profit setting,” Luke said. “It opens up the opportunity for competitors of these companies to essentially do what we’re seeing here – complaining about that public process.”

Retired chiefs whose departments purchased Taser cameras have also been hired to work as consultants, such as former Albuquerque Police Chief Ray Schultz.

An investigation was brought on by Council members in Albuquerque when Schultz stepped down from his position and became a Taser consultant soon after. The U.S. Justice Department criticized the city for jumping into a contract with Taser and using the cameras before police were properly trained.

Body camera competitors, like Wolfcom Enterprises, are put off by the relationship between police departments and Taser as well.

“Every time I do a presentation, as I’m standing there looking through the room, I wonder, ‘Who is tainted by Taser?'” said Peter Onruang, president of Wolfcom Enterprises.

A recent report by The Police Foundation found that body cameras worn by police officers have led to a significant decrease in force-related complaints. The devices have potential to help mend the relationships between communities and law enforcement by keeping both parties accountable for their actions.

Several police departments are jumping on board with Taser, and the company announced that it has signed deals with 16 law enforcement agencies in the U.S. to use its cameras and software system.

However, not every police department has the resources to purchase cameras for hundreds of officers, sort through data from the recorded material, buy the storage software and distribute necessary clips to other agencies.

Phoenix Police Chief Joe Yahner said It would cost the department at least $3.5 million, a price that departments in cities of any size may struggle to afford.

Powdered Alcohol to be Sold in Stores Across the Country This Summer

Powdered alcohol has been approved, despite last year’s false start, and could be available in the U.S. this summer.

On March 10, The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) granted approval to Palcohol, an alcoholic powder by Arizona company Lipsmark LLC that can be added to any liquid for a custom beverage.

Palcohol was approved after scientific review from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said the product’s ingredients weren’t concerning and proved no need for a legal block.

The TTB originally approved Palcohol last April, but public outcry led to a temporary repeal two weeks later.

Although Palcohol would follow the same age and distribution regulations as liquid alcohol, that hasn’t stopped several hesitant states from taking measures to keep it away.

Some passed legislation banning powdered alcohol last year, including South Carolina, Louisiana and Vermont; while others like Mississippi, Virginia, Ohio, Colorado, North Dakota, New York, New Jersey and Washington are still considering taking similar action against Palcohol.

Opponents of the powder are concerned about the potential dangers of such a new, unique product. Specifically, many are afraid it will be easier to abuse and conceal, especially for minors, but Lipsmark founder, Mark Phillips, argues Palcohol is no more dangerous than liquid alcohol.

The Palcohol website addresses major concerns like snorting the powder, spiking drinks and food and overloading cocktails with the powder.

“Listen, people can snort black pepper….so do we ban it? No, just because a few goofballs use a product irresponsibly doesn’t mean you ban it,” Phillips said.

Palcohol was originally created by Phillips, an avid hiker and backpacker, with the help of scientists so that people who travel or spend time outdoors could conveniently bring their favorite drinks with them to unique destinations.

Lipsmark also has plans to make an industrial, non-ingestible Palcohol formula, in addition to its consumable rum, vodka and cocktail products, to be used for medicine, energy, travel, hospitality, manufacturing and commercial purposes.

Spring Break Dangers – How Safe Are Your Spring Break Plans?

Some of the most popular spring break destinations are also the most dangerous for students and families traveling over the next several weeks.

Orlando, Florida; Lake Havasu, Arizona and South Padre Island in Texas are ranked in the top 25 most dangerous places to spend spring break, according to a study that evaluated the risk of violent crimes, murder, rape and fatal car crashes in 25 U.S. cities.

Whether groups decide to travel or stay in town, there are risks associated with high volumes of people in one place anywhere in the country, and this is especially common in areas where the majority of travelers are minors and young adults.

Some of the most common threats spring break vacationers face are disorderly conduct and assault arrests, citations involving alcohol abuse like underage drinking and DUI, possession charges and property damage.

During spring break at beaches in the Gulf Coast last March, approximately 1,000 people were sent to jail – not warned or cited – for underage drinking. Police had to enforce this type of zero-tolerance policy due to the number of fatal drug and alcohol cases they were facing.

Those are just a few of the dangers spring breakers can pose to themselves, outside factors that could contribute to a dangerous vacation are kidnappings, theft and other violent crimes that may result from existing issues in the area, even if there are no travel restrictions in place.

Rocky Point in Mexico is sought after among Arizona residents who are looking for a nearby, affordable beach vacation. Despite its popularity, however, Rocky Point has had its share of dangerous incidents at the border and in tourist-heavy locations at the time.

In December 2013, a shooting involving Mexican police and military personnel left five men dead near a luxury hotel in Rocky Point.

To address possible hazards in neighboring areas, universities and government agencies alike are taking initiatives to prevent dangerous spring break situations.

The University of Arizona hosted its eighth annual Spring Break Safety Fair the first week of March, before spring break. The University of Arizona Police Department and Associated Students of the University of Arizona run the event to give students travel and safety tips no matter where they decide to spend the break.

Parents and students are advised to take the proper measures, such as sharing all travel information with someone at home, using the buddy system and staying alert, to ensure that spring break is more fun than trouble.

Corso Law Group knows that more often than not, fun times anywhere can easily lead to mistakes and accidents.

Don’t handle legal trouble on your own, call Corso Law Group anytime for help (480) 471-4616.

 

Arizona Driver’s Licenses Are Not REAL IDs, Don’t Comply With Federal Standards

Arizona residents will not be able to fly domestically or enter certain federal buildings with their driver’s licenses if the state doesn’t make changes to comply with federal “REAL ID” requirements by the end of 2015.

Since 9/11, the federal government added 31 extra measures for states to use to produce more secure forms of identification. However, state legislatures are responsible for regulating licenses, and five states including Arizona, Maine, Louisiana, Idaho and New Hampshire chose not to comply with the REAL ID Act standards.

Air travel within the country is the biggest problem thousands of Arizona residents could face in the next year. Without a REAL ID, The Department of Homeland Security would not allow flyers through airport security unless they provided another form of identification such as a valid passport.

Access will also be denied to federal buildings and nuclear power plants without a REAL ID by early 2016.

Opponents in Arizona decided against making state licenses compliant with the new standards because of fears that that the REAL ID would work as a tracking device or as a tactic to make the government extra money.

Although Arizona revamped state licenses in 2013, the new IDs do not comply with certain REAL ID requirements, such as requiring new ID photos every eight years and proof that ID holders are in the country legally.

“Arizona you know how we act, sometimes when we’re told by the federal government we need to do something, we’re kind of like that rebellious teenager. We said no we’re not, so we’ve passed a ban, and we said we’re not going to do it,” said Arizona Senator Bob Worsley.

Worsley’s Arizona Senate Bill 1273 proposes bringing the state’s licenses up to federal standards by giving residents the option to pay $15 for a new, REAL ID.

The bill passed through the Senate and has moved to the House. Worsley said he hopes the bill will make it’s way to Governor Doug Ducey’s by the end of March.

How Facebook Could Get You Arrested

We all know that privacy settings are essential on social media sites. We try our best to protect ourselves, keeping in mind that what we post, like or comment on could hurt our family or friends or even cost us a job opportunity. What we don’t consciously think about while tweeting, instagramming or posting is that we could face legal ramifications for our social media actions.

How Could I Be Engaging in Incriminating Actions?
There are multiple ways in which you could be engaging in incriminating actions. For example, the most obvious way to engage in such actions is to incriminate yourself directly. Stating openly or even posting a related picture on social media implying that you had any connection with a crime can and will be used against you. A social media post can be viewed as an admission, so if you feel that you may have made a social media connection with a crime, consult your attorney.

Connections and associations will also be taken into consideration when law enforcement agencies are investigating a crime. Even if you had absolutely nothing to do with the crime, being Facebook friends with a suspect could lead to trouble for you. If you aren’t consciously aware of your association with a potential suspect of a crime and tell police enforcements that you do not know them, they can see if you are affiliated with them via social media and you could face charges for perjury.

Location is a social media setting which we are not typically aware of but could cause a great deal of trouble. If you were to post a photo or status in which the location can be traced then your location can be pinpointed by anyone who you are digitally connected with, or even law enforcement. You do not have to be at the scene of the crime to be a suspect, but if you checked in somewhere else a few miles away, it is possible for them to launch an investigation on your whereabouts. While you can avoid using location services on social media for your own protection, you should be cautious and know that many apps are continuously tracking you on your phone and can share locations with your contacts.

While you may argue that you have the right to privacy and have secured your social media profiles to the best of your abilities, there are ways for law enforcement to access your profiles and go through them. It is crucial be aware of what you are posting whether a large crime like a drug ring busted in New York via Facebook, or even if you are petitioning for custody of your children.

What Your Lawyer Might Tell You About Social Media
Your lawyer may advise you to monitor your social media profiles even for court disputes that are not crime related like injury suits or divorces. An insurance claim investigator may view your photos and attest that your injury isn’t related to an accident that an insurance agency or other client may have to cover, but something else that they saw you were engaged in via your social media sites, like skydiving. Similarly, if you are in the middle of a divorce and fighting for custody of your children, your spouse could easily use posts or photos which portray you in a negative light. Your lawyer may advise you to shut down your accounts so make sure to speak with them and see what they feel is the best way to protect you from your own social media accounts.

Other Social Media Crimes
You may be reading this and think that none of the situations described above apply to you. Can you still be affected by what you say or do on social media? Absolutely. It is important to know that while we enjoy the freedom of speech, we could face trouble if we take that freedom too far. For example, any form of harassment, menacing behavior, threatening behavior or offensive comments could lead to ramifications. You may claim that your rants are “therapeutic” like Anthony Douglas Elonis who was arrested for threatening comments he made against his ex-wife.

What you say, or even repost could get you into trouble. Social media monitoring may feel like a violation against your rights, but in the long run it protects against negative outcomes like bullying and harassment. Be aware of the repercussions of what you are posting via social media. You may want to leave that thought for your diary rather than your digital profile, which will follow you around forever.

 

Arizona Supreme Court Takes on Scottsdale’s Controversial BAC Tests

The Arizona Supreme Court is reviewing whether blood-alcohol test results from an erroneous machine at the Scottsdale crime lab can be used as evidence against several DUI cases from 2013.

A lower court previously found the BAC results to be permissible evidence in court, allowing the defendants’ cases to move forward. However, some of the defense attorneys involved disagreed with this ruling, arguing that their clients shouldn’t be subject to the results of compromised tests from untrustworthy equipment and lab staff.

In July 2013, the lab was criticized for using defective equipment to test the BAC of those arrested on suspicion of DUI in Scottsdale. Court documents indicated that Scottsdale police and lab technicians knew the machine was running on outdated software from 2009, resulting in mislabelled and inaccurate data for as many as 50 percent of samples.

Recently, Arizona’s highest court began oral debates to decide the fate of nearly a dozen DUI cases with attorneys Joe St. Louis and Lisa Marie Martin presenting their arguments before five state Supreme Court justices.

St. Louis argued against using the results as evidence in court, saying, “we don’t want drunk drivers to go free but we don’t want people who haven’t broken the law to be convicted.”

Martin represents the state, and defended the lower court’s previous decision to proceed with the DUI cases at hand because the machine was only intermittently producing mistakes.

Despite knowing about the faulty machine, tests continued to go through the lab for use in DUI cases. As a result, it’s possible that numerous people could have been wrongly convicted of DUIs due to the incorrect tests.

This possibility hasn’t been sitting well with many because Arizona’s DUI laws are some of the harshest in the nation, with a minimum of 24 hours in jail, license suspension and intense fines for all offenders, including first time offenders.

With 29,000 DUI arrests made in 2013 alone, the percentage of potential false convictions that could have been made over the years is cause for controversy.

No decisions have been made yet, but blood samples are no longer being processed on the Scottsdale machine due to staffing issues, and instead are sent to the state DPS lab, Scottsdale Police report.

Flyers Encourage Drivers to Stay Silent at DUI Checkpoints

A Florida criminal defense attorney’s DUI checkpoint flyers intended to protect people from wrongful charges are cause for controversy as they may allow impaired drivers to avoid arrest.

Warren Redlich is the criminal defense attorney behind the “Fair DUI Flyer,” which is essentially a DUI checkpoint kit drivers are using to go through stops without having to roll down the window and interact with officers face to face, preventing police from perceiving slurred speech or detecting alcohol on the breath.

Law enforcement officials are questioning the legality of the Fair DUI Flyer as DUI checkpoints are legal in 38 states, and a U.S. Supreme Court ruling from 1990 upheld that these types of stops do not violate constitutional search and seizure rights because they help prevent hazards caused by drunk driving.

Organizations like Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) are concerned that the flyers let impaired drivers stay on the roads, potentially causing harm to themselves and others. According to MADD, 676 people were killed in drunk-driving related accidents in Florida in 2014.

The Fair DUI Flyer reads “I remain silent, no searches and I want my lawyer,” along with a short list of state laws and a set of instructions for the driver to display their driver’s license, proof of insurance and car registration.

“It’s a method for innocent people to protect themselves from a bad DUI arrest,” Redlich told USA TODAY Network.

A YouTube video with over 2.5 million views shows a man using Redlich’s flyer at checkpoints in Florida, with the flyer and required documents in a plastic bag set outside the driver’s window for police to inspect.

In the video, Florida Highway Patrol officers observe the flyer and eventually waive the car through.

Redlich said he created the flyer because he, “was tired of defending people who were wrongfully arrested after going through checkpoints.”

The flyer is tailored to laws in 12 different states, but Redlich doesn’t recommend using them in states other than where he practices in New York and Florida without speaking to a lawyer first.

While people in Florida may have had some success with Redlich’s method, the flyer doesn’t guarantee drivers will get through checkpoints unscathed. An officer may have other reasons to give citations that have nothing to do with impaired driving, in which case the flyer says to have the officer put the ticket on the windshield.

Would you dare to use the Fair DUI Flyer?

Protecting Your Online Assets Posthumously Gets a Digital Upgrade

A new state law in Delaware is making it possible for estate executors to access a deceased account holder’s digital assets, which includes social media and email accounts. While some internet groups have lobbied that the act violates consumer privacy, legislators who support the Fiduciary Access to Digital Account Act feel it is important for estate executors to have access to digital accounts after the account holder’s death, with or without a court order.

Delaware has passed the law and 18 other states are reviewing the act and may make decisions soon. Delaware has made it possible for trustees residing in the state to access the information even if the account holder does not live in the state. Meanwhile, social media sites are taking necessary precautions to protect the privacy of their users.

How Facebook Helps Protect Your Profile
Facebook launched a setting which enables users to appoint a “legacy contact”. This contact is the sole person who will granted limited access to an account holder’s Facebook account, unless the account holder makes other arrangements. The legacy contact is able to write a memorial message, respond to new friend requests, update public pictures like the profile and cover photo, and with the permission of the account holder, download any public profile information like pictures and posts. The legacy contact will not have access to private messages. While Facebook is protecting their users’ privacy, the law still allows estate executors to access other accounts like email.

Protecting Private Email Accounts
Emails are much less filtered than letters since email account holders trust that their digital mail is secure. The act does grant access to these forms of digital communication which may be necessary to handle other accounts such as financial or joint family accounts. However, family members could potentially find information that they had not expected through email which was meant only for the account holder.

What Does the New Law Mean to Family Members?
The law has made its way to the Southwest, in New Mexico, and it is important to be prepared. Family members should consider that even if they have the username and password to an account, they may be violating federal law by accessing the account after the account holder has died.

In order to avoid legal ramifications, account holders should specify who they want their accounts to be accessed by, and how they want their accounts handled or disposed of. Digital accounts may include valuable assets, from financial information to legal documents, family photos and memories. Collection of these files should be designated to a specific person and account holders should talk to their attorney about how to best protect themselves and their loved ones against violation of privacy and information and/or identity theft.