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Caleb Mason

Search, Seize, Convict?

Can evidence obtained illegally be used against you in court? Sometimes it can—and this summer, the Supreme Court dramatically expanded the government’s ability to use evidence obtained during an illegal police detention. The ruling creates problematic incentives for police, and pushes Fourth Amendment law into “uncharted territory,” claims a former federal prosecutor.


Report: Surveillance Court Has ‘Foundational Legal Weaknesses’

The secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance (FISA) Court no longer functions as it was intended when it was formed in 1979, according to a new report from the Brennan Center at New York University School of Law. The court was created under the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to oversee federal requests for surveillance warrants for individuals on American soil suspected of being foreign agents. “Today, the court's activities resemble neither the granting of warrants nor the ordinary adversarial process for […]


The Real Fourth Amendment Problem: Getting Substantive Issues Decided At All

In yesterday's column, I praised the Supreme Court's ruling last month in Riley v California, which barred police from examining cell phones without a warrant. Now, here's my more important point, one I guarantee you're not going to see in the other commentary you're reading. It's a little more difficult to follow, but bear with me, because it's much more significant in the long term. It turns out the same Supreme Court that gave us this excellent decision has also […]


ABA: Fourth Amendment Takes Center Stage at High Court

The Fourth Amendment was the “lead story for criminal justice cases” during the 2012-2013 Supreme Court term, according to the American Bar Association’s (ABA’s) recently released “The State of Criminal Justice 2014.” The newest issue of the ABA’s annual review, which examines major issues, trends and changes in the criminal justice system, declares that “driven by Justice Antonin Scalia, the U.S. Supreme Court demonstrated fundamental doctrinal shifts in analyzing what is a ‘search’ and when warrants may be required.” That […]


Cell Phone Ruling Is No Threat to Effective Policing

Fourth Amendment cases give us great past-vs.-present riddles, little Zen koans testing our constitutional intuitions about technology. How is an email message like a paper-and-envelope letter? How is a computer hard drive like a file cabinet? How is a thermal-imaging scope like a pair of binoculars? How is a cell-phone tower like a human phone-company operator? And now: how is a cell phone like a pack of cigarettes? We have to play these analogy games because, as The Crime Report […]

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Using Jay-Z to Teach the Fourth Amendment

The rapper Jay-Z can teach students, police and drug smugglers quite a bit about fourth amendment case law, according to Southwestern Law School professor Caleb Mason. An essay written by Mason and published recently in the St. Louis University Law Journal provides a line-by-line analysis of the second verse of the song “99 Problems,” by Jay-Z, from the perspective of a criminal procedure professor. “In one compact, teachable verse (Verse 2), the song forces us to think about traffic stops, […]