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Some laws

Posted by: Laurence Simons 31/07/12

You would have thought, it being 2012, we would have figured laws out, that we would have all the laws that we need. 'Don't murder people. Don't set fire to things' you know. But as the world changes and technology speeds up, there are holes, unanswered questions. "Is it okay to impersonate a drug dealer on the phone?" you ask, shaking your fists at the sky. "Is it okay to text drug addicts words like 'dope'?" Well, yes.

Or so courts in America decided this month, and as Washington-based heroin possessor Shawn Hinton found out to his detriment. In November 2009, police seized an iPhone belonging to suspected drug dealer Daniel Lee, handing it over to detective Kevin Sawyer. Hinton, a twitching associate of Mr Lee, then texted the phone - 'hey whats up dogg can you call me i need to talk to you' - leading Sawyer, impersonating aforementioned dogg, to arrange to meet up in a nearby grocery store parking lot. Hinton arrived and was bluntly arrested.

Is that okay? It's a grey-ish area, but for now, it seems to be okay. At trial, both Hinton and another rumbled target, Jonathan Roden, argued that Sawyer had violated their privacy rights by intercepting without a warrant their private communications, but Washington State appeals court sort of disagreed (they convicted him). If the two decisions, penned by Judge Joel Penoyar, are upheld on appeal, the case could have far-reaching implications for mobile phone users and especially mellow clients of criminal defence lawyers alike.