When the police suspect a driver is breaking the law, the Fourth Amendment allows them to stop the car. This means compelling the driver to bring the car to a halt. Sometimes a car stop will lead to further investigation, searches, and even arrests. What will these stops look like when people no longer drive their cars and police officers no longer pursue them by driving their own? Autonomous cars are not yet commonplace, but soon they will be. Yet little attention has been paid to how autonomous cars will change policing. The issue matters enormously because today the police spend a lot of time stopping cars. For instance, the most common contact most adults in the United States have with the police takes the form of a traffic stop. Vehicles equipped with artificial intelligence and connected both to the internet and one another may be subject to automated stops. The issue is already being discussed as a theoretical possibility and as a desirable policing tool. This essay considers the law and policy issues that will arise when car seizures become remote and automated.
Elizabeth E. Joh
This Comment tries to extract Watts from the context of statutory and constitutional interpretation and reread it as an inquiry into the meaning of acquittals in the current sentencing regime. Part I of this Comment places the enactment of the Guidelines into historical context and also looks at the limited ways in which the Supreme Court attempted to justify the practice sanctioned in Watts. Part II examines the legal justifications that might better explain the Court’s decision. Part III argues that even the best justifications offered for the Watts decision overlook the communicative effects of acquittals. Penal practices inevitably contribute to a social dialogue beyond the courtroom and the prison. This Comment argues that we should demand some coherence between social beliefs and sentencing decisions. Ultimately, Watts is problematic because it renders the acquittal verdict incoherent in a sentencing regime that many scholars and activists already find deeply unjust.
Conventional wisdom assumes that the police are in control of their investigative tools. But with surveillance technologies, this is not always the case. Increasingly, police departments are consumers of surveillance technologies that are created, sold, and controlled by private companies. These surveillance technology companies exercise an undue influence over the police today in ways that aren’t widely acknowledged, but that have enormous consequences for civil liberties and police oversight. Three seemingly unrelated examples—stingray cellphone surveillance, body cameras, and big data software—demonstrate varieties of this undue influence. The companies which provide these technologies act out of private self-interest, but their decisions have considerable public impact. The harms of this private influence include the distortion of Fourth Amendment law, the undermining of accountability by design, and the erosion of transparency norms. This Essay demonstrates the increasing degree to which surveillance technology vendors can guide, shape, and limit policing in ways that are not widely recognized. Any vision of increased police accountability today cannot be complete without consideration of the role surveillance technology companies play.