By Richard J. Lehmann – New Hampshire Criminal Attorney
Last week, the New York City Police Department issued a statement revealing that it had received a scanning machine that reads terahertz — the natural energy emitted by people and inanimate objects — and allows police to view concealed weapons from a distance. The device, which fits inside the trunk of a car and can be easily transported, may be coming to New Hampshire. But does the use of such a device, without probable cause or any other reason to believe that the person being scanned has done anything wrong, violate the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures?
"A scanning machine that reads terahertz — the natural energy emitted by people and inanimate objects — and allows police to view concealed weapons from a distance"
In the landmark decision Kyllo v. United States, the police used a different type of scanner to view thermal radiation emitted from a home. Police subsequently obtained a search warrant based on information gained from the scanning device and found that the homeowner was using grow lights to cultivate marijuana in his home. The homeowner was convicted of possessing marijuana and appealed his conviction to the United States Supreme Court. In a razor-thin 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court reversed his conviction, finding that a person has an expectation of privacy in his or her home and that the use of the thermal imaging device intruded upon that expectation of privacy. The case also expressed a prescient concern about the future ability of technology to allow the government to intrude upon the privacy of citizens.
The use of portable scanning devices to determine whether citizens are carrying concealed weapons raises similar concerns. New Hampshire, like New York, prohibits the carrying of concealed weapons without a permit. While permits are more easily obtained in New Hampshire, both states have permit requirements and both states punish violations with possible jail time.
The Constitution protects your right to remain from invasions of privacy by the police If you have been charged with a crime or believe your rights have been violated, you should consult an experienced criminal lawyer at Douglas, Leonard & Garvey, P.C. at (603) 288-1403 or fill out our online contact form for a case evaluation.