Does GPS Tracking Count as a Search? Yes.

Does GPS Tracking Count as a Search? Yes.

Law enforcement agencies have become more aware of how technological advances can help them monitor and track suspects and criminals. The Supreme Court, however, has put a limit on what exactly counts as a “search” and how far authorities can go in tracking repeat offenders. Torrey Dale Grady, a repeat sex offender, was told he must wear a GPS ankle bracelet 24 hours a day so that he can be monitored by the North Carolina police. Grady said that since the device needed to be charged, he was required to sit next to a wall outlet for at least 4 to 6 hours per day. Grady unsuccessfully battled the ankle bracelet in North Carolina courts, but eventually made his way to the US Supreme Court. Grady claimed that the GPS ankle bracelet would be the equivalent of an unreasonable search and seizure, therefore violating his 4th Amendment rights. The Supreme Court was  interested in answering this question for once and for all.

In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court agreed with Grady and said that if the government attaches anything to your body or your property, it counts as a search. Although the North Carolina Supreme Court had sided with its police authorities and said the ankle bracelet was perfectly legal, the Supreme Court sent the case back to the state’s highest court to be heard once again. Siding with Grady, the Supreme Court also mentioned precedents. One of the cited cases was US v. Jones, in which the Supreme Court had ruled that installing GPS devices in a suspect’s vehicle fell under the 4th Amendment search.

The Fourth Amendment and advances in technology seem to be in contradiction. It is expected that the Supreme Court will soon have to deal with the issue of whether geolocations from our phones are also protected under the Fourth Amendment. We will have to wait and see when such a case makes its way to the nation’s highest court. The concern about technology and surveillance is growing as more and more Americans purchase smartphones. This ruling will force lower courts to consider whether attaching a GPS tracker to someone is a violation of their constitutional rights. North Carolina was not alone in requiring repeat sex offenders to wear ankle bracelet. Wisconsin did the same thing, but both of these states and others will now be forced to reconsider their method of monitoring criminals.

 

Source referenced:

  1. Naked Security
  2. The Atlantic
Why you should have an Employee Handbook

Why you should have an Employee Handbook

A Double-edged Sword

There was a time when employers avoided having an employee handbook. It was a common misconception that having an employee handbook protected employees, but not employers. This is definitely not the case. While an employee handbook can protect employees, it can also help employers with legal matters. An employee handbook can be a double-edged sword, but it is recommended that every business have one. The type of business or the number of employees working should not determine whether or not an employer has a handbook. In addition to protecting both employers and employees, a handbook can encourage employees to behave in a more appropriate fashion, make sure all employees are treated the same way, and help win unemployment lawsuits. We provide more reasons for having an employee handbook below.

Establishing Expectations

While an employee handbook does not need to be an instruction manual on how to perform a specific job or duty, it can provide some baseline expectations for a new employee. It can include anything from dress codes to information on how to request a day off. An employee handbook can also include information on filing a complaint about harassment, keeping a time record, and complying with the law while on the job. Adding this information to your employee handbook can come in handy in case of a lawsuit or any legal trouble.

“Selling” the Benefits You Offer

When a new employee is considering his or her options for employment, providing them with your employee handbook can definitely be beneficial to you. In the handbook, you can highlight all the resources you provide for your employees and why your business is the best place to work. You can even include Worker’s Compensation and Medical Insurance benefits.

Lawsuits

If your business ever faces a lawsuit from an employee, an employee handbook can serve as your first defense. For example, if you terminated an employee you will need proof that the employee was on notice for his actions. It would be extremely helpful if you have outlined your procedure for terminating employees in your handbook, as it would serve as the proof you need. If the employee signed the employee handbook, it becomes an even stronger defense.

Some additional considerations about employee handbooks are that they must comply with state and federal laws. While you do not need to spell out each law in the handbook, none of your policies should be conflicting with the law. In addition, your handbook should be tailored to the needs of your business. This means you should write your own handbook as a business owner. Getting the handbook published and checked for typos is also a good idea. Lastly, making sure your employee handbook is up-to-date is crucial. There is no point in having a handbook that focuses on laws from the past. We advise all of our business clients to either write or revise their handbooks based on the advise found here. More information on how to perfect your employee handbook can be found at the link below.

Source referenced: JD Supra

What to Know Before Using DIY Legal Sites

What to Know Before Using DIY Legal Sites

Perhaps in an attempt to save some time and money, some businesses are turning to DIY Legal Sites to fulfill their legal needs. These sites, like everything else on the internet, are readily available and are fairly easy to figure out. Not only are these sites cheap, they provide click-download-and-print legal forms for your business needs. However, before you use one of these sites for your business, we will highlight a few things you should consider if you plan on becoming an amateur attorney from the comfort of your couch.

One size does not fit all: In this case, one form does not fit all cases. While the site may lead you to one specific form for your needs, there is no guarantee that the form will actually work for you. At the end of the day, you get what you pay for. You pay for a form and simple instructions on how to fill it out. You did not pay for an attorney to walk you through the problem and help you find the one form that can fulfill your needs. Online forms are designed for the masses, but your attorney can find the specific form you need.

What you don’t know can hurt you: While attorneys with years of experience will be able to easily catch the smallest details in forms and contracts, the same cannot be said about an online form. Attorneys know the kind of loopholes and information they are looking for, but the online forms and legal services do not have any experience with this.

Forming a relationship with your attorney: Your attorney, by knowing you and your business, will always be able to recommend the best path forward for your company. If you have worked with the same lawyer for a number of years, he or she can help you avoid unnecessary hurdles and keep potential issues from turning into problems. A DIY legal site may be able to solve the problem at hand, but will not be able to advise you for the future.

If you look closely at these DIY legal sites, they explicitly say their services are not a substitute for a licensed attorney. This alone should serve as a warning to businesses using these sites instead of consulting their attorneys. While attorneys can be costly, their expertise does not match up to a legal site designed for the masses. In addition, you should weigh the risks and rewards of the situation. If hiring an attorney helps you avoid legal complications in the future, avoiding DIY legal sites may be your best plan. We hope this post has provided valuable information for our business clients.

Source referenced: Entrepreneur

Investing Spare Change with Lawnmower

Investing Spare Change with Lawnmower

What is the one thing young professionals spend the majority of their time using? You guessed it, their smartphone. What is something young professionals today might have a problem doing? You may have guessed it, saving money. With this knowledge, an app called Lawnmower was launched in 2014. The app tracks its users credit card and bank transactions and rounds each one up to the next dollar. The spare change is invested into buying Bitcoin. If you buy a book for $4.70, Lawnmower will round your purchase up to $5 and invest the extra 30 cents into buying Bitcoin. The goal of the app is that the spare change will add up over time and become a way for today’s generation to save money.

More and more apps are being designed to help young professionals accumulate their wealth. Another app, Digit, automatically sends small amounts of money from a checking account to a savings account. Acorns, similar to Lawnmower, automatically invests spare change into exchange traded funds. Mint is another app that helps people understand their spending and increase their savings. A trend among all these apps is that they charge little or no fees for their services. Lawnmower does not currently charge anything, but users may still pay a fee for using Bitcoin. Lawnmower plans to offer premium services to its users to generate revenue.

The founders of Lawnmower, Alex Sunnarborg, Pieter Gorsira, and Patrick Archambeau, hope that their app will be easier to use than Bitcoin, which can be overwhelming and complex for new users. The fact that Lawnmower’s success is completely dependent on the ongoing use of Bitcoin does not concern the three founders. As an entirely digital currency, Bitcoin has had its fair share of ups and downs. While there were days when the price point of Bitcoin hit over $1,000, there were also days in 2014 where it stood at a little over $200. Although not everyone is convinced that Bitcoin is the future of currency, Sunnarborg does not think Bitcoin’s success or failure with impact his users too much. This is because his user’s will only be jeopardizing spare change, not huge amounts of money. Sunnarborg makes a fair point, but one thing to keep in mind is that losing small amounts of spare change everyday can add up to a huge amount.

Source referenced: Fortune