When Is It OK to Use Technology to Evade the Police?

iphoneBy Bruce Carton

Modern technology is obviously invaluable to law enforcement’s efforts to apprehend criminals, but the latest confluence of mobile technology and social media is also becoming a powerful tool for avoiding the police.

On his blog, law professor Jonathan Turley highlights the case of Elliot Madison, whom he notes is now the subject of an intriguing constitutional fight with both federal and state authorities. Madison, “a self-described anarchist,” was arrested during the recent G20 summit for using Twitter to send messages on the location of police during the G20 protests.

Madison claims that he was arrested because his tweets were helping people evade the police. Turley writes that “arresting someone for communications based on public observations is an abuse of authority and a violation of the Constitution.” He points out that charging Madison for assisting criminal conduct based on his tweets would gut the First Amendment and create a chilling effect on citizen communications.

The police apparently do not have the same reaction, however, to another technology that is arguably geared toward helping people evade police on the road. TechCrunch reports that a new iPhone and BlackBerry application called Trapster helps users avoid speed traps (a funnier but “R-rated” description of Trapster is available here). Not unlike the Madison case, Trapster relies on users to report speed traps when they see them, allowing other users to avoid tickets.

Interestingly, the police response to Trapster is not to complain that it assists criminal conduct (speeding) as in Madison’s case. Rather, the police have reportedly endorsed Trapster under the theory that “if someone slows down because of (Trapster), it’s accomplishing the same goal of trying to get people to obey the speed limit.” That’s one theory. Then there’s the way Paul Carr thinks of it in that “R-rated” review of his in The Guardian: “Trapster: the mobile distraction for when driving at high speed isn’t f**king dangerous enough.”

Posted at Legal Blog Watch.

9 responses to “When Is It OK to Use Technology to Evade the Police?

  1. Pingback: The Progressive Mind » When Is It OK to Use Technology to Evade the Police? « COTO Report

  2. This is the last stand of the First Amendment. That such an arrest could even happen shows us we are no longer a free people.

  3. Pingback: When Is It OK to Use Technology to Evade the Police? « COTO Report :: Edits.me – Blogging about technology

  4. This is almost a Strawman argument, in that it takes away from the premise of what in the hell were 12,000 military and police doing on the streets to begin with? If you take in their ordinance, their numbers increased 10-fold.

    My take is we’re at war. We didn’t start it and we didn’t want it. But war it is none the less.

    For what there is left of our corrupted system, we use to right the wrongs. But at some point one has to realize that the system itself is so far gone, that at best, it becomes nothing more than a futile gesture in trying to seek justice. And at it’s worse a method from which our enemies can target easy prey. And being that they are in a war against us, why wouldn’t they use this easy method to achieve total victory?

    We can keep doing what is legal in a lawless war, and my hope is that there may still be a few brave servants of justice that reside within the system to bring it back from the dark void it has fallen, but understand I have grave doubts.

    I am not advocating violence, that I’m afraid is simply inevitable.

    Should what this young man did be considered a crime?


    It should be considered an act of war. And I support him 100%

  5. How powerful is social media, I got this info today

  6. Let’s be clear: the police overkill was a “war crime” against the Constitution and efforts of free people to seek redress of grievances. Resisting those efforts is our solemn right.

  7. Pingback: COTO Report Tops 100,000 Visitors « COTO Report

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