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Police Use of Face Recognition Technology

Police Use of Face Recognition Technology
Recent advances in face recognition software have raised a host of complex questions for society as a whole, lawmakers, and law enforcement agencies. Photo databases are already in use by the FBI and other agencies to identify criminal suspects using mugshots and photos taken in the field during investigations. As body-worn cameras become more common for local law enforcement, experts anticipate that law enforcement will begin using face recognition software to rapidly identify individuals officers encounter in the field.

Current use of face recognition by law enforcement

The FBI has collected biometric and photographic information about criminal suspects for decades. This information is shared with authorized local agencies to assist them with investigations. Face recognition software improves the efficiency of law enforcement’s use of the information. The FBI’s Next Generation Identification (NGI) system includes an Interstate Photo System (IPS), which automatically searches a database of mugshots and identifies potential matches. The NGI-IPS system is intended to be an investigative tool for helping officers more efficiently identify suspects. Because “false positives” are still a likely possibility, officers still must manually review the results and use other investigative tools to verify their accuracy. As a consequence, FBI policy dictates that the results of NGI-IPS searches are not to be used for positive identification. In other words, they cannot be used to justify a search warrant or other law enforcement actions.

The near-future of face recognition technology

Face recognition software is rapidly improving. Its algorithms use a wide range of facial features to find potential matches, increasingly allowing it to make positive matches even if the individual’s face has changed from the database photo. For example, a suspect who has grown a beard or gotten a tattoo can still be identified despite those changes. In the law enforcement context face recognition technology will become increasingly useful for helping officers identify suspects and other potentially dangerous individuals. High-definition cameras, especially when body-worn, will be an important component of this process. At the same time, we can expect a continuing conversation about how to best balance the civil liberties of the public with the technology’s legitimate law enforcement uses. Privacy concerns pose a special challenge for policymakers. In Las Vegas casinos have been using face recognition software to identify people on their blacklists for several years. In theory, an individual’s every move through public spaces could be automatically tracked, regardless of whether or not the individual is a criminal suspect. Coming to grips with the full implications of this possibility will be an ongoing process.

GGRM is a law firm for first responders

The law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez is proud of its long history of representing law enforcement officers, fire fighters, and emergency medical professionals in workers’ compensation and other disputes. For a free attorney consultation at 702-388-4476 or ask us to call you through our contacts page.

Inspection Liability for Nevada Fire Departments

Inspection Liability for Nevada Fire Departments
In the aftermath of a structure fire people who have lost property, suffered injuries, or lost loved ones will sometimes pursue lawsuits against anyone who might bear responsibility for the fire. In circumstances where a building was not compliant with state or local fire regulations, injured parties may wonder if a fire department’s failure to make adequate inspections could make it legally liable for some of the damages caused by the fire.

Las Vegas building inspection process

The Clark County and Las Vegas fire codes provide several points when a fire inspection is required:
  • Prior to and during construction. Before construction begins the plans for a new building are reviewed by county inspectors for compliance with fire safety guidelines. During construction fire inspections are routinely completed to ensure that the structure is code compliant.
  • As part of business licensing. A wide range of businesses must carry special permits in connection with their general business license. Businesses that involve combustible materials, like gas stations or auto repair shops, are a few examples. Restaurants, bars, and warehouses must also comply with various requirements, like adequate evacuation routes and signage. Special events are also required to obtain fire safety permits.
  • Annual renewals. Holders of permits and licenses with annual renewal requirements must have their premises inspected as part of the renewal process.

Nevada law shields inspectors and their departments from liability

The obligation to comply with fire codes ultimately rests with the property’s owner and operator. As a practical matter that makes sense: the people who routinely maintain a building are in the best position to ensure that it is safe, while an inspector can verify that a structure is safe only on the day of the inspection. Nevada has codified the common law “public duty doctrine,” NRS 41.033, which shields state and local inspectors and their employers from liability for failing to inspect a property or failing to discover a hazard, regardless of whether an inspection was made. In normal circumstances this shield prevents a lawsuit even if there is an affirmative obligation to inspect. A plaintiff may be able to go forward with a lawsuit involving an inspection agency only if the agency had actual knowledge of a deficiency and did not take action to correct it, such as by granting a business or construction permit despite a failed inspection. Courts have held that a government agency may be held liable despite NRS 41.033 if the defect was so obvious that anyone with knowledge of the applicable code would have recognized it. Davenport v. County of Clark, 111 Nev. 467 (1995). The knowledge exception is fairly narrow: the plaintiff must prove actual knowledge. It’s not enough to argue that the agency had implied knowledge (i.e., the hazard could be inferred from other facts) or constructive notice of the hazard. The inspector or agency needed to be aware of the specific hazard at issue, and did nothing to prevent it.

GGRM is a Las Vegas personal injury law firm

In most circumstances involving structure fires an injured person’s best option for recovering compensation will be to pursue a lawsuit against the building’s owner and operator, as well as their insurers, rather than a government entity. But given the right facts an agency with an inspection duty could be implicated in a fire. For over 45 years the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has represented personal injury clients in the Las Vegas area. Call us today for a free attorney consultation at 702-388-4476 or send us a request on our contact page.

The Use of Drones by Nevada Law Enforcement

The Use of Drones by Nevada Law Enforcement
Drones have become a useful tool for law enforcement. Las Vegas Metro recently acquired five drones to assist its officers. Drones allow officers a quick and cost-effective way to survey a crime scene from the air, without needing to call in a helicopter. They also come in handy in search and rescue and in investigations after accidents. The use of drones by Nevada law enforcement is subject to number of statutory rules that officers should understand.

When is a warrant needed to use a drone to gather evidence?

Drones allow law enforcement officers to rapidly search the scene of an incident and gather photographic evidence that could become an important part of an investigation and prosecution. Nevada law provides some guidelines on when a warrant is needed before a drone can be used to survey an area. Under NRS 493.112, a warrant is required to gather evidence or other information (such as an audio recording) in the curtilage of a residence, or in any other place where a person has a reasonable expectation of privacy. Where required, a warrant must specify that the court has authorized the use of a drone to gather evidence. It also must specify the period for which drone use is authorized, which cannot be for more than ten days unless extended by the court upon a showing of probable cause. NRS 493.112(2). Any evidence gathered in violation of these requirements will not be admitted in a judicial or administrative proceeding and cannot be used to establish reasonable suspicion or probable cause.

Exceptions to the warrant requirement

The law provides several exceptions to when a drone can be used to gather evidence without first obtaining a warrant. These are:
  1. If there is probable cause to believe that a person has committed, is about to commit, or is committing a crime, and exigent circumstances make it unreasonable to obtain a warrant before using the drone.
  2. If a person consents in writing to law enforcement gathering information about him or her.
  3. If the drone is used in search and rescue operations for persons and property in distress.
  4. In circumstances which law enforcement believes represent an imminent threat to life and safety of an individual or the public, such as terrorist threats. In these situations the agency must submit a sworn affidavit describing the circumstances within two business days after beginning operation of the drone.
  5. Upon a declaration of emergency by the governor, provided that the drone is flown only within the geographic territory specified in the declaration and is used only to protect property or the public, or to assess damage.

Constitutional questions remain open

Officers familiar with the Fourth Amendment issues associated with using technology to gather evidence will no doubt wonder if drone surveillance could be an unconstitutional search. In Kyllo v. United States, 533 U.S. 27 (2001), the U.S. Supreme Court held that officers needed a warrant to use infrared cameras to detect an illegal marijuana greenhouse. One can expect law enforcement’s use of drones to come under Fourth Amendment scrutiny at some point, though the Supreme Court hasn’t had a chance to weigh in. The law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez proudly serves members of the Nevada first responder community. We are keeping an eye on the important legal issues facing our law enforcement professionals. If you have questions about how Nevada’s drone laws affect you, please give us a call today at 702-388-4476. We can also be reached through our contacts page.

Basics of Nevada Gun Ownership Laws

Basics of Nevada Gun Ownership Laws
In the aftermath of the Route 91 Harvest Festival massacre last year, Nevada’s gun laws have been under increased scrutiny. Nevada’s gun laws are among the most permissive in the United States. However, there are some important limits. Nevada residents who own firearms or are thinking about buying one should take a moment to understand the state’s rules.

Protections for gun ownership

Gun ownership in Nevada is expressly protected by both the federal and state constitutions. The Second Amendment to the United States Constitution provides that “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." Similarly, article 1, section 11 of the Nevada State Constitution, enacted in 1982, states that “[e]very citizen has the right to keep and bear arms for security and defense, for lawful hunting and recreational use and for other lawful purposes.” In keeping with the permissive spirit of the state Constitution, Nevada has neither licensing nor registration requirements for firearms. Prior to June 2015 Clark County required owners to register handguns under the so-called “blue card” system. Among other things, the blue card system required first-time handgun owners to wait 72 hours before taking possession of their firearm. Senate Bill 175 preempted Clark County’s registration laws. One effect of SB 175 was that all existing registration records were destroyed.

Open carry and concealed carry

To carry a concealed weapon in Nevada one must have a concealed carry permit. Nevada is a “shall issue” state with respect to concealed carry permits, meaning that individuals who meet the requirements for a permit may obtain one without further official intervention. The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department issues permits for Clark County residents. The requirements for a permit are straightforward: the applicant must be 21 years of age or older, must be able to lawfully possess a firearm, and must complete a firearms safety course. Open carry of firearms is legal in Nevada. SB 175 preempted local laws that restricted open carry in Las Vegas. State law prohibits firearms at schools, including K-12 and college campuses. NRS 202.265. Owners and operators of private property are within their rights to ask people with firearms to leave the premises or disarm.

Nevada restricts gun ownership for certain individuals

Despite the state’s liberal gun ownership rules, many people in Nevada are not legally allowed to possess firearms. These include:
  • Convicted felons who have not received a pardon.
  • People convicted of crimes of domestic violence or stalking.
  • People subject to an existing restraining order or other order intended to protect against violence.
  • People who have been dishonorably discharged from the military.
  • People who are legally insane or mentally incompetent.
  • People who are not in compliance with United States immigration laws.
  • People who use controlled substances prohibited under federal law, including marijuana.
Note that even though marijuana is legal for recreational and medicinal use in Nevada, its prohibition under federal law also brings federal restrictions on gun ownership to bear against users.

GGRM is a Las Vegas law firm

The law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has served the Las Vegas community for over 45 years. If you have questions about Nevada’s gun laws and how they may affect your rights, our attorneys are here to help. For a free consultation reach out to us today at 702-388-4476 or contact us through our website.

Lawful Use Of Pyrotechnics In Las Vegas Entertainment Venues

Lawful Use Of Pyrotechnics In Las Vegas Entertainment Venues
Fire and explosions can be an exciting part of a Las Vegas stage show. To ensure that pyrotechnics are handled safely, Nevada requires professional licensing for people who handle them. Failing to follow state and local licensing and permitting requirements can lead to terrible accidents, not to mention serious legal consequences. Producers who are considering using pyrotechnics, and venues thinking about hosting their shows, should take a moment to understand the licensing rules.

Nevada pyrotechnics licensing requirements

The Nevada State Fire Marshal Division enforces Nevada’s pyrotechnics licensing program. The use of fire effects in shows falls under the rules governing commercial fireworks displays. Nevada requires anyone in the business of producing fireworks displays to hold a license. NAC 477.606. Regular licenses are only issued to persons who are at least 21 years old, though apprentice and assistant licenses are available to anyone 18 or older. The licensing process requires applicants to provide information about their training and experience with pyrotechnics as well as their proposed safety procedures. The licensee is required to wear safety gear while producing a pyrotechnics display, as described in the 2010 edition of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Code of Fireworks Display. Applicants also must provide the fire marshal with an insurance certificate showing that they have the minimum coverage required in NAC 477.618. State pyrotechnics licenses can be revoked if the licensee injures someone or creates a fire hazard at the performance location or where equipment is stored. Licensees are required to notify the fire marshal of any injury or fire they cause. NAC 477.646.

Categories of pyrotechnics licenses

Nevada separates its licensing requirements for pyrotechnics into several categories. Each category has its own requirements and rules.
  • Fire performers are entertainers like jugglers who use open flames as part of their act. To be licensed, fire performers must complete a safety course and at least 40 hours of training. NRS 477.223, NAC 477.630.
  • Magicians use materials like flash paper or powder smoke in their performances. Magicians may only use such materials within twelve feet of themselves. NAC 477.620.
  • Pyrotechnic operators run fireworks displays. They begin as assistant pyrotechnic operators, who to be licensed must pass a written exam covering N.F.P.A. standards for the storage and use of fireworks. They must also submit endorsements from two licensed operators and proof of employment. Holders of assistant licenses are only permitted to work under the supervision of a fully licensed individual. A licensed assistant pyrotechnic operator can obtain a full operator license by passing a written exam and submitting evidence of experience. NAC 477.622 to 628.
  • Flame effects operators are licensed to use a specific fuel type (natural gas, propane, or solids) for creating flame effects in front of an audience. Flame effects operators must first be licensed as flame effects assistants. The assistant license process requires passing a written exam on fire safety procedures, the submittal of endorsements from two licensed flame effects operators, and evidence of employment as a flame effects assistant. NAC 477.631 to 633.

Local licensing laws

In addition to complying with the state fire marshal’s requirements, a pyrotechnics operator also must comply with local licensing laws. Las Vegas requires permits for any commercial display of fireworks, open flame effects, or fire performances. The city requires permit holders to carry minimum insurance that is twice the minimum required by state licensing rules. The insurance policy must name the city as an additional insured. Las Vegas Fire & Rescue personnel must be present during performances. The law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has called Las Vegas home for over 40 years. From licensing problems to injuries caused by negligent operators, we are here to answer your questions. For a free attorney consultation call us today at 702-388-4476, or send us a request on our contact page.

Is Verbal Abuse Against Police Officers Protected?

Is Verbal Abuse Against Police Officers Protected

Since the Supreme Court decision in City of Houston v. Hill, 482 U.S. 451 (1987), the courts have extended significant First Amendment protections to an individual’s right to verbally “oppose or challenge police actions,” so long as the conduct in question does not amount to “physical obstruction” (quotes from the Supreme Court’s holding in City of Houston v. Hill). In 2015, this issue reemerged in Washington v. E.J.J., a decision by the Washington Supreme Court.

Essentially, the court held that the “offensive speech” of an arrestee was protected under the First Amendment. The incident in question took place in the context of the arrest of an intoxicated resident of a house. Police had arrived and attempted to calm the resident down. Meanwhile, another resident of the house told officers not to use a nightstick on another individual involved in the altercation because she was his sister. After being led away from the scene, this individual became irate and began yelling profanities at the officers.

At some point the individual was told that he was engaging in obstruction; following that, he was then arrested on the charge of obstructing a law enforcement officer. The Washington Supreme Court, however, found that the individual who was arrested had the right to criticize how the police were handling the situation. The court stated that "obstruction statutes may not be used to limit citizens' rights to express verbal criticism, even abusive criticism, at police officers." The court also held that the arrestee had the right to direct profanity at officers so long as he did not physically interfere with the officers.

While this decision applied only to Washington state law, it is illustrative in showing how courts continue to uphold the legacy of City of Houston v. Hill. These decisions are illustrative in that they can help guide how law enforcement officers ought to react to profanity and provocation from citizens. In situations like these, it’s important to remember that First Amendment protections do extend to citizens voicing their displeasure to police officers.

For decades GGRM has been representing Las Vegas’s finest. Our experience and passion make us the premier Las Vegas law firm for police officers in need of legal representation or consultation. Visit our contact page to learn more and get in touch with one of our attorneys

Implications of Cell Phone Cameras for Police Officers

s of Cell Phone Cameras for Police Officers

While police officers are like everyone in that they own and carry around smartphones for personal use, in recent years smartphones have increasingly become a part of an officer’s professional equipment. They can be used to call in reports, email witnesses, and take pictures of crime and accident scenes. However, they also bring with them potential issues and complications that police officers should be aware of.

There is no question that smart phones bring with them significant benefits for law enforcement officers. A smart phone can be an invaluable tool while an officer is on patrol. One of its main pros in this context is that it gives an officer the ability to communicate with individuals who don’t have access to a radio; it also serves as a backup communication device in case the radio signal is compromised. Smart phones also give officers access to real time information via the internet that can be utilized during disasters or community events. Smart phones also give any officer the capability to take relatively high quality photos at crime scenes that can then be used in subsequent investigations. Officers at the scene can also pass along pictures of suspects and vehicles to their counterparts on patrol. Smart phone cameras can also be used during disturbances to help disperse crowds and provide evidence later of what the conditions on the ground were like. On the other hand, smart phones can act as a potentially dangerous distraction to officers on duty. They can adversely affect situational awareness, or even cause an officer to momentarily lose sight of a suspect. A significant legal pitfall is the potential for officers’ posts and tweets to be used in court to attack their credibility. Ill-advised social media posts can also hurt community relations, or even ruin an officer’s career. Another common issue is the use of smart phones while officers are driving their vehicles. Many states have enacted legislation that prohibits using smart phones while driving; however, in states like California officers have been exempted from this law. Oftentimes this is something that is regulated on the department level. Many departments have embraced the new technology by issuing their officers smart phones, but forbid their use while driving. This is indicative of the give and take approach police forces across the country are taking with this and other emerging technologies. GGRM is proud of our long and distinguished record advocating on the behalf of public employees. Our attorneys love doing it, and are exceptionally good at it. Whether you need legal representation immediately or would just like to speak with an attorney, give us a call at 702-388-4476.

Administrative Investigations Explained

Administrative Investigations Explained

When a police officer has an allegation of wrongdoing made against them, he or she is understandably anxious to understand what is going on and take the appropriate steps. One of the most stressful parts of the process is when an officer has to testify as part of the investigation. At this point, it is strongly advised that the officer consult with an attorney who has experience specific to administrative investigations. Here are some key points police officers subject to an administrative investigation should keep in mind when preparing for the investigative process.

  • Confine answers to the scope of the question being asked. When an officer is asked a question as part of the investigation, he or she should answer directly and honestly. However, the best course is generally to not add additional testimony or justifications. It is not advisable for the officer to volunteer information or answers that were not requested, as this is not necessary and can often do more harm than good.
  • Remain calm and collected throughout the process. Do not be defensive. Maintaining one’s composure during the proceedings can be a huge benefit. Taking a defensive or aggressive posture can weaken the officer’s testimony and undermine their credibility.
  • When it comes to testimony, there is no such thing as over preparing. Before testifying, an officer should carefully review any and all relevant evidence, reports, documentation, witness accounts. Know the facts of the case or incident inside and out, and be prepared to answer hard questions.
  • In conjunction with number 1, keep answers succinct and on point. Simple yes or no answers can oftentimes be the most effective and appropriate.
  • Don’t neglect your appearance. Make sure that your dress, grooming, etc. help your credibility rather than undermine it.
Finally, administrative investigations are not something you need to or should go through alone. Consult with an experienced attorney you can trust to passionately and competently represent your interests. For decades GGRM has been representing Las Vegas’s finest. Our experience and passion make us the premier Las Vegas law firm for police officers in need of legal representation or consultation. Visit our contact page to learn more and get in touch with one of our attorneys.

Can EMS Providers Be Liable in a Vehicle Accident?

Can EMS Providers be Liable in a Vehicle Accident?

The short answer to this question is yes. While EMS providers do have protections under Good Samaritan laws, in the event of a vehicle accident, EMS providers can be subject to liability in the form of claims involving negligent operation of a vehicle. Most states’ Good Samaritan statutes do not apply under these circumstances.

In every state there are laws on the books permitting emergency vehicles to exceed posted speed limits and/or violate the normal right of ways. However, in many cases there are exceptions that require ambulances to obey certain traffic rules. Examples may include requiring EMS vehicles to stop at traffic lights and ensure the intersection is clear before proceeding, or adhering to limitations on how much the speed limit can be exceeded by .These kinds of laws are usually specific to the state, and can vary significantly. A fundamental principle of all laws governing the operation of emergency vehicles when they are responding to an emergency is that the EMS provider operating the vehicle exercise any legal privileges or protections they may be entitled to with due regard to the safety of others. Excessive speeding and reckless operation typically violate this principle on its face, and can result in liability. In Nevada, EMS providers do enjoy strong legal protections under the state’s Good Samaritan statute (NRS 41.500). However, they are not protected from liability if there are damages resulting from “gross negligence.” For this reason, Nevada EMS workers should be as careful as possible in how they operate emergency vehicles when responding to emergency situations. Speeding, erratic driving, failing to pay attention, and texting and driving are all actions that could potentially fall under the category of gross negligence. While EMS providers are obligated to arrive at scenes as quickly as possible, haste should be tempered with safe and deliberate driving practices. GGRM is proud of our record representing law enforcement officers, fire fighters, and EMS providers. For us it is much more than a job- it is a calling. Give us a call at 702-388-4476 to schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys or visit our webpage to learn more.  

Police Officers and Personal Civil Liability

Police Officers and Personal Civil Liability
This is a tense time for police officers. Due to controversial issues like police shootings and racial tensions, officers are facing a great deal of scrutiny into both their professional and private lives. Civil lawsuits directed at police officers are on the rise. It is especially important that officers be aware of the ways they could potentially be held personally liable for actions taken while on duty. Personal liability in this context means that a police officer can face a civil suit for actions taken in relation to their position as a law enforcement officer. For example, a person who claims they were intentionally injured by a police officer could bring a tort lawsuit against the officer. The most common type of lawsuit brought against police officers involves a violation of constitutional or statutory rights; this is known as a Bivens action. Common examples of this type of suit include:
  • An allegation of false arrest
  • An allegation of excessive force
  • An allegation of malicious prosecution
  • An allegation that a law enforcement officer failed to intervene in the unlawful actions of a fellow officer
When these kinds of allegations arise, the police department is usually sued for the law enforcement officer’s actions; however, the individual officer is targeted as well. Since a personal civil lawsuit could result in the officer paying significant out of pocket damages, these situations are understandably extremely stressful. The good news is that courts will generally defer to law enforcement officers and dismiss the suit. This is because most courts give officers a large amount of discretion in how they perform their duties. Additionally, the government will usually take on the defense of the officer once the lawsuit is filed. Even so, police officers should give serious consideration to maintaining a private insurance policy to cover legal defense and pay a judgement or settlement.