By: Edith Hinson
On Friday, February 13, 2015, Charlotte School of Law’s Law Review hosted their annual spring symposium. This year, the event focused on new privacy concerns of the 21st Century. Aptly titled, “For Your Eyes Only: Where Privacy Ends and the Law Begins,” the event served to edify attorneys and students alike about the evolution of Fourth Amendment jurisprudence as it relates to modern technological advances.
The event was hosted at the UNC-Charlotte Uptown Campus, and featured two panels, as well as a key-note speaker. The morning panel focused on Constitutional Theory and the right to privacy in the 21st Century, and featured professors from Charlotte School of Law, as well as Elon Law School. The panelists discussed different theories of Constitutional interpretation, and why reliance on certain theories produces different results. Importantly, the panelists discussed the impossibility of predicting how the Framers of the Constitution would have dealt with modern-day privacy issues.
While the morning panel took a more theoretical approach to 21st Century privacy concerns, the afternoon panel debated the issue in practical terms. The hot topic was Riley v. State, which was handed down in 2014, and announced that officers may NOT search an arrestee’s cell phone merely by virtue of their arrest. Riley v. State, 134 S.Ct. 2473 (2014). Before Riley was decided, the circuits were split on whether the search of a cell phone fell into the scope of a search incident to lawful arrest. North Carolina was one of those states that previously operated on the idea that an officer could search an arrestee’s cell phone simply by virtue of arrest. The advent of the new rule means that individuals convicted of crimes pursuant to cell phone searches may have constitutional grounds to challenge their convictions. As well as that, from here on out, police officers will have to obtain search warrants in order to peruse the content of an individual’s cell phone.
Between the two panels, key note speaker Karel Reynolds took a different approach to privacy concerns. Rather than focusing on Constitutional theories, or even practical applications, Reynolds spoke on the privacy concerns as related to the Holocaust. Reynolds—who serves as director of the Holocaust Museum in Spindale, N.C.—stressed the notion that the less privacy the individual asserts, the more likely it is that the government will exercise tyranny and take away all of the rights of the individual. Reynolds made it clear that her approach to privacy issues is to exercise your rights!