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Wisconsin Fraud, Criminal and White-Collar Criminal Investigation Blog

Can police search hotel registries absent judicial involvement?

Earlier this week, the Supreme Court of the United States granted certiorari -- agreed to hear -- arguments in a very compelling case concerning whether a city ordinance allowing law enforcement officials to search hotel and motel guest registries without any type of judicial involvement violates the Fourth Amendment.

The city ordinance in question is found in the city of Los Angeles and essentially sets forth two requirements: 1) all hotels and motels must keep guest registries, and 2) these records must be available to any Los Angeles Police Department officer for inspection at any time. Failure to comply with any request for records is treated as a misdemeanor.

A group of L.A.-based motel owners filed a legal challenge against the city ordinance, which culminated in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit overturning it as unconstitutional in a decision handed down back in December.

New tool banks are using to fight fraud raising questions, concerns

Anyone who has placed a phone call to their bank or credit card company is accustomed to hearing a recorded greeting informing them that their call be likely be "monitored." While most of us just dismiss this recording as nothing more than a training tool or quality control measure, recently released reports indicate that it might also be a crime deterrent device.

Specifically, these reports indicate that several of the major players in America's financial industry, including Wells Fargo & Co. and JP Morgan Chase & Co., are now using a technology called voiceprinting as a means of preventing fraud.

While it sounds like something out of a spy thriller, voiceprinting software is designed to detect the voices of people who repeatedly call help centers seeking to access different accounts -- presumably using stolen personal information -- and place their names on a so-called "voice biometric blacklist" that effectively blocks their calls.

Experts urge online vigilance during Cyber Security Awareness Month

While most of us associate the month of October with the changing colors of leaves, cooler temperatures and, of course, Halloween, it's important to remember that these 31 days also have meaning from a criminal law standpoint.

Specifically, October is officially recognized as Cyber Security Awareness Month, an initiative sponsored by the Department of Homeland Security since 2003 that is designed to "engage and educate public and private sector partners through events and initiatives with the goal of raising awareness about cyber security."

While you might naturally think that most so-called cyber crimes affect only financial institutions and large corporations, this is far from the case. Indeed, law enforcement officials here in Wisconsin are now reminding the public of the need to remain vigilant when using any computerized device.

This makes sense when you stop to consider that statistics show that Dairy State residents lost $6.4 million via cyber crimes last year, an average of $1,900 per victim.

Is a test that measures brainwaves the next lie detector test?

brain.jpgAs you are more than likely already aware, traditional polygraph tests -- which are designed to measure the changes in a person's respiration and pulse during the course of an interrogation -- cannot be used as evidence in the criminal court system here in the U.S.

Despite this prohibition, many law enforcement agencies continue to deploy the device as a purely investigative tool. However, researchers at Northwestern University are hoping to change this by drawing attention to a newer type of test that has been used by Japanese law enforcement officers for several years and which they say has a significantly lower false-positive rate than the old-fashioned lie detector test.

Appeals court decision limits scope of state's castle law doctrine

Gavel.jpgA legal term that many people might have heard quite a bit in the news over the last few years but not entirely understood is the castle doctrine. In general, castle doctrine laws permit the use of deadly force by homeowners to protect themselves from intruders in their dwellings.

As it turns out, Wisconsin's castle doctrine law was recently at the center of a fascinating case before the 2nd District Court of Appeals concerning a man who fired his gun at two men who fled from his apartment after perpetrating a vicious assault.

According to the facts of the case, the man suffered a broken nose and three broken ribs back in November 2012 when his ex-girlfriend's current boyfriend and a companion entered his apartment in Sheboygan Falls and began beating him.

During the course of the attack, the man was able to shoot each of the men in the leg. However, as the men fled the apartment and darted across a parking lot, the man continued firing at them. The shots missed, however, with the bullets hitting a nearby car and hotel.

College students must appreciate the gravity of drug charges

teen handcuffs.jpgFor all young adults, starting college is an important milestone as it not only marks the beginning of enhanced learning and life experiences, but also the first time that they will be away from home for a significant period of time. While most will go on to have the typical college experience, others may perhaps let the freedom go to their heads, and make some potentially serious mistakes or poor decisions.

For example, it's not uncommon for some college students to run afoul of the law when it comes to illegal drugs, perhaps being arrested for possession or even distribution.

While experimentation with drugs in the college setting is certainly nothing new, experts indicate that it's important for students to understand and appreciate that drug crime charges can have a significant impact on their current academic options and their future.

Appellate court decision examines OWI laws, motor bicycles

motorcycle 2.jpgWhile motorcycles, scooters and bicycles are the go-to choice for most two-wheeled enthusiasts, there a select few who prefer a more non-traditional mode of transportation.

For instance, some people own what are known as "motor bicycles," which, as the name suggests, are a sort of hybrid allowing a person to either pedal or switch over to a motor.

Interestingly, a Wisconsin appellate court was recently called upon to decide whether the state's drunk driving laws applied to these motor bicycles.

Top police official says okay to marijuana legalization

post plant.jpgThis coming November, the issue of marijuana legalization will be on the ballot in multiple states in some form, including Oregon, Florida and Alaska. While no such measures will be decided by voters here in Wisconsin, the issue of legalizing marijuana for medicinal and even recreational purposes has nonetheless been discussed to a considerable degree by lawmakers, law enforcement officials and advocacy groups throughout the state.

The latest person to offer their opinion on this hotly debated issue is Madison Police Chief Mike Koval, who has taken what some might characterize as a surprising position concerning marijuana.

Specifically, Koval recently indicated that he's on board with the idea of legalizing marijuana here in the Dairy State, saying that he believes the drug should be treated in much the same way as alcohol and tobacco.

AG Holder looks to Congress for help in combating white collar crime

handcuffs 3.jpgIn the aftermath of the recent recession, which was fueled in large part by major financial institutions being less than forthright about the quality of mortgage bonds offered for sale, the Justice Department took immediate action.

However, rather than pursue high-ranking executives, federal prosecutors instead reached major settlements with the major Wall Street firms for which they worked.

While this tactic resulted in the DOJ securing billions of dollars on behalf of the American taxpayer, the agency did face criticism for what many called its failure to go after some of the key players behind the worst fiscal crisis in recent memory.

In a recent speech, however, Attorney General Eric Holder defended the actions of the DOJ, indicating that while federal prosecutors wanted to pursue this course of action, it was often difficult to prove that these high-ranking executives had any involvement due to blurred lines of corporate authority, meaning a concerted effort to mask the identity of people behind certain business decisions.

Controversy continues to surround first-offense OWI in Wisconsin

OWI Bill.jpgOn the evening of November 4, all eyes in the state of Wisconsin will be glued to televisions and the Internet as the results of the 2014 general election come in. On this historic day, voters will be called on to decide not just who will represent them in the state legislature, but who will hold the offices of the governor, secretary of state, treasurer and attorney general.

Interestingly, of all the contested issues to arise in the race for the AG's office, there is actually one on which the two leading candidates agree: first-offense OWI. Here, they both agree that the Dairy State should continue to maintain its position as the only state to not criminalize first-time drunk driving and instead treat it as a traffic offense.

Not surprisingly, these respective positions have upset many vehicle safety advocacy groups, who argue that more must be done to combat the epidemic of drunk driving in the state and that this can start with criminalizing first-offense OWI.

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