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The act of obtaining someone's identity or personal information through deceptive means is considered as identity theft. In most identity theft cases, this information is used for personal financial gain. A person's personal and economic data can be used for your own benefit in several ways, and all states have statutes to protect their citizens against identity theft.

Information that is deemed personal includes social security number, credit card pin codes, credit history and internet passwords as well. Different means are often used to get this information. In some cases the information has been leaked through government organizations that have all this information. These days the internet has become a major part of our lives, and can be used to obtain sensitive information. Cyber crime is being readily used to facilitate identity theft because it is a lot safer as well.

The government has made several laws against identity theft offenders. It is considered a federal crime and being convicted of it could lead to hefty fines and several years in prison. However, the sentencing does depend upon the seriousness of the crime committed. In cases where the financial loss for the victim was considerable, there is a higher chance of a strict sentence.

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An important issue to explore in any criminal defense case is whether law enforcement did their job properly, whether they followed the rules, procedures and protocols to which they are bound. These rules are in place not just to ensure uniformity of procedure, but also to ensure criminal suspects’ legal rights are protected and to uphold the integrity of the criminal process.

The technology used in law enforcement is, of course, continuously developing and it typically takes awhile for the law to catch up to emerging policing technologies. An example of this is the 2001 U.S. Supreme Court case, Kyllo v. United States, which ruled that police must obtain a search warrant before using a thermal imaging device on a private home. Prior to the ruling in that case, the technology had been used in law enforcement for a number of years, but it took time for the legal system to clarify the legality of the technology in the context of constitutional law.

One technology which has recently increased in law enforcement across the country is facial recognition technology. Facial recognition, as it is currently practiced, involves the use of computer software to match the faces of criminal suspects with images in a database. The software, according to a recent report coming out of Georgetown University, is currently used in some form in 16 states, including Florida.

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Previously, we began looking at the topic of facial recognition technology and its increasing use in law enforcement. As we noted, the technology is used here in Florida. As the Georgetown report we mentioned last time makes clear, there are concerns with the use of the technology. For one thing, police have easy access to photo databases and often aren’t monitored to ensure there is no abuse.

Here in Florida, police and FBI officers are not required to have reasonable suspicion to run a facial recognition search, and searches are not audited for potential abuse by law enforcement agents. From a defense perspective, this is concerning, and not only because of the potential inaccuracies of the technology. Law enforcement could potentially use the technology to track criminal suspects on questionable bases, such as race, religion or political affiliation. They could also use the technology for purely personal purposes, violating individuals’ privacy.

The Georgetown report makes a number of recommendations to address these concerns, including: limiting searches to police photographs unless a warrant is obtained; eliminating innocent people from searches; and explicitly prohibiting tracking individuals on questionable bases. The report also raised concerns about using facial recognition software in conjunction with live video, which would allow police to continuously surveil individuals in real time, changing what it means to be in a public place. This is already being done by some police departments.

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Previously, we began looking at the problem of increased opioid abuse across the country and here in Wisconsin. Along with the surge in prescription drug abuse, one of the positive developments has been that lawmakers have taken an approach to the problem which is not merely punitive, but aimed at addressing the addiction itself.

For instance, Rep. John Nygren of Marinette was successful in passing measures back in 2014 which address the problem with education, increased access to a drug which counteracts the effects of heroin overdose, immunity for those who report suspected heroin overdose or transport an overdose patient to the hospital, and allowing municipalities to hold prescription drug collection drives and require identification to obtain prescription narcotics.

Other creative solutions to the problem are coming from the federal government. One example is the Madison Police Department’s participation in a federal grant program which involves “smart policing” in dealing with drug users. Under the pilot program, known as the Madison Addiction Recovery Initiative, nonviolent drug offenders are given the option to receive treatment instead of going through the criminal process.

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Previously, we commented on the importance of criminal defendants working with an experienced attorney to carefully scrutinize the actions of law enforcement officers and agents to protect their constitutional rights and to build a strong criminal defense case. The way in which law enforcement carries out its duties can and does come into play in criminal defense work, and criminal defendants deserve to know how to take advantage of the protections built into the process.

One of the tactics commonly used in law enforcement is sting operations, which come in different forms, including setting up fake businesses to catch criminals in the act. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) has, in the past, heavily used this strategy in the form of undercover storefront operations. As a recent article noted, though, the use of fake storefront operations in law enforcement has been, and continues to be, problematic.

The ATF inspector general noted in a lengthy report issued earlier this month that undercover storefront operations has major avoidable problems. These have included changing the setup of sting operations without permission from ATF headquarters, as happened with an operation here in Milwaukee in 2011. The report also noted violations of federal disability law in some cases, with storefronts targeting individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities. Now, the U.S. Department of Justice is investigating how the ATF might come into compliance with the law.

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