Can You Hear Us Now? Communications Policy and the Criminal Justice System

Can You Hear Us Now? Communications Policy and the Criminal Justice System


Talk about convergence.  Not only has the Internet changed the way Americans consume content, it is also changing the criminal justice system.

The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world.  According to the 33-country Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the U.S. incarceration rate is 760 prisoners per 100,000 population.  Only 3 of the remaining OECD countries have incarceration rates above 250 per 100,000. These include Israel (325 per 100,000), Chile (317 per 100,000) and Estonia (273 per 100,000).  African-American and Hispanic men (3,074 per 100,000 and 1,258 per 100,000, respectively) comprise a disproportionate share of American prisoners, compared to just 459 per 100,000 of white men.

Policymakers should continue to monitor how the ways law enforcement officers use technology may perpetuate flaws in the criminal justice system.  Several developments over the past month shed light on these considerations.



The Fourth Amendment states “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause.” The warrant requirement for law enforcement officers conducting investigations in the physical world is well settled, even as the law surrounding exceptions to the warrant requirement is more complex. However, the extent of Fourth Amendment protection online and on devices is murkier.