NSA Leaks: How much of our Privacy should be Sacrificed for our Safety?

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Over the past few weeks a national debate has raged concerning the National Security Agency’s leaks and Edward Snowden. Should the federal government be able to access our phone and internet records? Is this a necessary evil to protect our nation’s safety? Is Snowden a hero or a traitor? What else is the government hiding?

There’s a fine line between protecting us from terrorism and invading our privacy. I understand there are threats to national security and the government cannot tell us everything, but is it necessary that our phone calls be under surveillance. Is there no other way? And if there is no other way, where does it stop? If the government is allowed to monitor our phone calls and internet usage could it then track our movements?  The government claims that Americans are not being monitored, but can we really believe that?

I also have mixed feelings about Snowden. On one hand, our first Amendment right should protect the publication of the leaks from persecution. Without our right to free speech the government would be able to become oppressive.  On the other hand, can we really trust Snowden? In addition to the information he’s already leaked, he had access to other sensitive information and is now hiding in China.

Supreme Court Validates DNA Swabs Upon Arrests: What Does it Mean?

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The Supreme Court’s recently held in Maryland vs. King that DNA swabs of people who are arrested, but haven’t been convicted for a serious crime does not violate the 4th Amendment of the Constitution. The 4thAmendment protects citizens from unreasonable search and seizures and requires that all warrants be supported by probable cause. Writing for the majority of the Court, Justice Kennedy concluded that “DNA identification was a reasonable search that should be considered part of the booking procedure.” In a scathing dissent, Justice Scalia argued that DNA identification leads to “suspicionless” searches, which violates the “probable cause” element of the 4th Amendment.

Alonzo King was connected to an unsolved Maryland rape case after his DNA was taken upon being arrested for an assault charge. He was ultimately convicted based on the DNA that was taken due to his arrest for assault. The Maryland Court of Appeals overturned his conviction ruling that the police need a warrant or at least a reason to suspect him of another crime before taking his DNA. The State, supported by the federal government, then brought the case the Supreme Court.

DNA SwabIn weeks leading up to the Supreme Court’s decision debates surrounding the constitutionality of DNA identification became more heated. On one hand, a cheek swab upon being arrested is not unreasonably invasive and not all that different from when law enforcement takes your fingerprints upon arrest. When your fingerprints are taken, even for minor infractions, they are run through a national database to see if there are any matches to a prior crime. Fundamentally DNA identification would follow the same process. Additionally, DNA identification may help bring at-large criminals to justice in unsolved crimes, as it did in the King case.

On the other hand, DNA identification upon arrest is a search without probable cause, which is unconstitutional under the 4th amendment. The Supreme Court has previously ruled that since the Constitution is the supreme law of the land it should not be violated even if the results of the violation are beneficial. Therefore, unless authorities have probable cause to believe that a person in custody could have been involved in a prior crime, they should not be allowed to take DNA to search for a connection. DNA identification upon arrest for serious crimes could be a slippery slope that could lead to DNA being taken for trivial violations.

Currently the federal government and twenty-six states, including North Carolina, collect DNA samples upon arrest for serious crimes.

Company Found not Negligent in Carbon Monoxide Death

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A Forsyth County jury found that Old Republic Home Protection’s hiring of Windham Heating and Air Conditioning did not lead to carbon monoxide poisoning death of Greensboro man. On November 14, 2008, two people were killed when a faulty furnace leaked carbon monoxide into their home. Old Republic hired Windham to fix the furnace prior to the deaths. The plaintiff alleged that Old Republic failed to conduct a proper background check of Windham. Windham had previously been placed on probation by the North Carolina Board of Examiners and Old Republic had received a customer complaint about Windham’s incompetence as recently as 2008.

furnace releasing poisonous CO gasUnder North Carolina law an employer is presumed to have properly performed his duty in employing and retaining his workers. However, if an employer had actual or constructive knowledge that an employee is incompetent or unfit he may be deemed liable if that employee injures a third-party due to negligent employment or retention. Determining negligent employment or retention is a jury question.

The theory of negligent employment or retention is completely independent of an employer’s liability under the doctrine of respondent superior. The doctrine of respondent superior mandates that an employer is liable for any negligent act of an employee that occurs within the scope of employment. Respondent superior usually does not apply to independent contractors.

The plaintiff’s lawyers have already announced that they plan to appeal the verdict. Additionally, the family of the second person killed due to the same carbon monoxide leak has their case pending in the North Carolina Court of Appeals.

Two Injured by Dog Bites in Winston-Salem

After recently purchasing a Boxer, named Epic, for my two sons the story of three pit bulls attacking a FedEx deliverywoman caught my attention. On Tuesday morning, a FedEx delivery woman and a Good Samaritan, who attempted to help her, were mauled by the pit bulls. The deliverywoman suffered dog bites to her head, ear, left arm, and leg. Criminal charges are pending against the owners of the dogs.

Dog Under North Carolina law if a dangerous dog attacks a person and causes physical injuries that require medical treatment in excess of $100 the owner may be found guilty a Class 1 misdemeanor. A Class 1 misdemeanor could result in house arrest with electronic monitoring, community service, a fine, or restitution.

In addition to criminal charges, the owner of a dangerous dog is held strictly liable for any injuries or property damage the dog inflicts on another person. Strict liability imposes an absolute legal obligation on the owner of a dangerous dog for all damages even if the owner took all reasonable steps to protect others from his dog.

If you have been injured by a dog bite or have been injured due to someone else’s negligence do not hesitate to C.Y.A. (Call Your Attorney). Contact our offices at (336) 727-9886. The McIver Law Firm handles cases in Winston-Salem, Greensboro, High Point, Lexington, and surrounding areas.

P.S. Epic is harmless.