The Landmark Case of Riley v. California

The Landmark Case of Riley v. California

This Supreme Court case from 2014 brought the Fourth Amendment into the digital age. David Leon Riley belonged to a gang in San Diego, California. In August of 2009, Riley and other gang members opened fire on a rival gang member while driving past him. Everyone fled in Riley’s car. A few weeks later, Riley was pulled over for an expired license registration tag in a different vehicle. Riley’s license turned out to be suspended and his car was going to have to be impounded. According to police policy, a car must be searched for all of its inventory to protect against the police department from liability claims  in the future. During the search, the police located two guns and arrested Riley for possession of firearms. The police also confiscated Riley’s phone and a detective analyzed his pictures and videos. He found that Riley was a gang member and was tied to the shooting earlier that month. Riley was charged with shooting at an occupied vehicle, attempted murder, and assault with a semi-automatic firearm. As the case progressed through different courts, the issue became whether or not the information/evidence gathered through Riley’s phone was admissible. The California Courts said it was okay to admit evidence from Riley’s phone. The Supreme Court differed and their decision made this case one of America’s landmark cases.

The ruling now requires that authorities obtain a warrant before searching a seized cell phone after an arrest. A warrantless cell phone search violates the Fourth Amendment right to privacy. Although this ruling may not seem like anything extraordinary to the average person, it hints at the fact that the Court is ready to engage with challenges it will face in the digital age ahead. This ruling also signals that the Court is concerned with the privacy of its citizens in this age of technology. We may see the court taking a pro-privacy approach in the future as well.

The Court identified many reasons for affording cell phones greater Fourth Amendment protections than physical records. Chief Justice Roberts explained these reasons:

  1. Cell phones have an immense storage capacity and can store millions of texts, pictures, and videos.
  2. Cell phones are able to aggregate many distinct types of information in one place.
  3. Data on cell phones usually includes “private information never found a home in any form.”
  4. Cell phones can serve as a portal to private records stored on remote servers. One click on a phone can give someone access to data stored elsewhere. This refers to cloud computing.

Not only did the Justices focus on the quantity of data stored in cell phones, they also looked at the quality of personal information. The Fourth Amendment was put in place by the Founding Father’s in order to maintain the privacy of the colonists. When British officers started rummaging through the home of people looking for criminal activity, the Founding Fathers knew there was a problem. This Supreme Court decision shows the privacy of Americans still needs to be protected. Many of the statements Chief Justice Roberts made along with the unanimous court showed that the NSA’s bulk record collection program may not be the best route for increased national security either.

Chief Roberts concluded the unanimous court decision by saying something that will definitively go down in the history books, “The fact that technology now allows an individual to carry such information in his hand does not make the information any less worthy of the protection for which the Founders fought.” We hope this in-depth analysis of Riley has helped our readers better understand their rights.

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Sources referenced:

  1. SCOTUS Blog
  2. Oyez
How Your Body Language Shapes You

How Your Body Language Shapes You

Amy Cuddy, a social scientists, focuses on nonverbal human behavior. Our posture, a handshake, an awkward hug, a smirk, and many other things fall under this category. She says our body language is a form of communication. Social scientists have spent a fair amount of time looking at the effect of our body language on other people. Our body language helps others make judgments and inferences about us. An example would be during a job interview. However, we focus a lot on how others are impacted by our body language but fail to look at how we are impacted by our body language. In her research, Cuddy focused on nonverbal expressions of power and dominance. For animals, they make themselves big and take up more space with their body. For humans, something similar takes place. To illustrate her point, Cuddy shows an image of Oprah and an Olympic runner stretching. A power pose is demonstrated by Cuddy in the image below.

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Cuddy then focuses on how men and women exhibit different body language and nonverbal expressions. As a professor at Harvard Business School, Cuddy has seen that male MBA students tend to take up more space around their desk area and be more dominant in the classroom. Females find their small space and prefer to be there and only raise their hands slightly, continuing to take up less space. This is not surprising because women feel less powerful than men. She then goes on to compare the minds of powerful and powerless people. In physiology, high power individuals have high levels of testosterone and low levels of cortisol. This is evidence that the body can shape the mind and the mind can shape the body.

Cuddy and her colleagues conducted an experiment where they took a student’s saliva sample, asked them to do either a low or high level pose for two minutes, asked them a series of questions about taking risks/gambles, and then took a saliva sample again. They found that those who did the high power pose were more likely to take risks/gambles. High power people also had higher levels of testosterone and lower levels of cortisol in only two minutes. This shows that our nonverbal behaviors govern how we think and feel about ourselves. How can we apply to this everyday life?

Answering this question was very important to Cuddy. She found that displaying confident and high power nonverbal behavior is important where we are being judged by others. This can be during a job interview or at a lunch meeting with friends. Since most people experience nonverbal shutdowns during a job interview, Cuddy conducted an experiment where several people were sent to an interview where they interviewers exhibited absolutely no nonverbal clues. The candidates came out very stressed and with high cortisol levels. At the end of the experiment, third party reviewers came in and looked at the videos of the interviews. They only preferred to hire the high power individuals because their nonverbal communication was a lot better. Cuddy tells a personal story of how she faked it until she made it at her first few jobs as a professor and speaker. She says you should not fake it until you make it, but fake it until you become it. Lastly, Cuddy concludes by saying everyone should try a power pose before stressful event and share this science to help others.

Source referenced: TED

Insurer Found Liable for Settlement Negotiated by Insured

Insurer Found Liable for Settlement Negotiated by Insured

San Diego Apartment Brokers prohibited riding bikes in the complex’s parking lot and other common areas after receiving complaints from several residents. Despite the new changes in policy, Juse Urista’s child continued to ride his bicycle in common areas. Brokers noticed that Urista was not complying with the new policy and served him an eviction notice. Urista sued Brokers claiming the eviction was wrongful and discriminatory. He also claimed negligence and violations of the Federal Fair Housing Act. Urista said the eviction also caused him depression and bodily injury.

Brokers received the claim and tendered it to its general liability insurer California Capital Insurance Company (CCIC). Brokers had not yet evicted Urista from his apartment at this point. CCIC refused to defend Brokers because Urista had not been evicted. Brokers’ attorney said CCIC could not refuse to defend his client without a valid defense. CCIC reviewed the case once again, but concluded that they did not have the authority to defend Brokers under the policy. They provided four reasons for not defending Broker’s action.

  1. Urista did not claim a separate physical injury
  2. Broker’s actions leading to the incident were decisions, not accidents
  3. A wrongful eviction had not taken place
  4. Even though Urista’s family had moved out, Urista’s continued residence precluded coverage

After CCIC refused to defend Brokers, Brokers ended up settling the case with Urista for $20,000. Then, Brokers sued CCIC for breach of contract and bad faith. The jury found in Brokers’ favor and awarded them $30,552. CCIC appealed the verdict by arguing that they never acted in bad faith because there was no genuine coverage dispute. However, the court rejected CCIC’s argument by saying Broker’s wrongful evictions claim clearly fell under potentially covered lawsuits.CCIC was being unreasonable by not defending Brokers. CCIC also ignored many of the other claims made by Brokers. CCIC’s refusal to defend Brokers was not in good faith. This case showed that an insurer can be held liable for settlement costs of its insured when the insurer refused to fends it insured in bad faith.

Sources referenced:

  1. JD Supra
  2. San Diego Apartment Brokers, Inc. v. California Capital Ins. Co., No. D062945, 2014 WL 1613449 (Cal. Ct. App. Apr. 22, 2014).
Dan Dennett: The Illusion of Consciousness

Dan Dennett: The Illusion of Consciousness

Dan Denneet is a philosophy professor who focuses on the human mind’s consciousness. Dennett says people often laugh when he tells them he works on understanding other people’s consciousness. He says it is very difficult to change other people’s consciousness because everybody thinks they are an expert on their own consciousness. However, there is a difference between having a strong opinion and having expertise in a certain field. Take video games as an example. Everyone has a strong opinion on whether video games promote violence, but not everyone is an expert on the research behind video games. In his TED Talk, Dennett says he wants to shake the audience’s consciousness.

During the first several minutes of his talk ,Dennett compares magic tricks to our consciousness. He says magic tricks, like our consciousness, seem more marvelous than they actually are in reality. He goes on to show computer-animated demos to show that we do not notice many things that happen. Dennett tells the audience the screen will show blocks that change colors, but mentions that it is difficult to recognize the change even when you know it will take place. He shares his personal experiences of viewing a Bellotto painting in North Carolina. Standing far away, Dennett thought he saw people in the painting. When he got up close, the people ended up being blobs of paint. This, he says, is an example of how your brains expects certain details or things.

Dennett says there are many times when we are subjects of experiments going on inside our brain. There are even times when you do not even know you had certain beliefs. Dennett continues to wow the audience with different paintings and explains how the brain “fills in gaps” to explain the images we see. He also explains the concept of change-blindness. Dennett says scientist often tell us things about our own consciousness that we would never dream of. This shows we are not always the expert or authority on our consciousness. Dennett concludes his talk by saying that both scientist and psychologist are working on theories to explain the human brain.

Source referenced: TED