Site Map - Legal Issues

First responders

- A bill (H.R. 3266) that would authorize the Department of Homeland Security to make grants to first responders to purchase or upgrade equipment and conduct training exercises has been approved by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Identity theft.

- A bill (H.R. 1731) designed to increase criminal penalties for identity theft has been signed into law (P.L. 108-275) by the president.


- A bill (H.R. 2971) that would restrict the sale and public display of Social Security numbers by both private sector and government entities has been approved by the House Ways and Means Committee.


-  The Connecticut Supreme Court has laid out the basis for accepting computer-generated information as evidence in a trial. The case involved a computer-enhanced bite mark on the victim's body and the bite mark of the accused murderer, which was accepted by the lower court as evidence. Attorneys for the defense had argued that the evidence should not have been admissible because a computer was used to alter the image, thus making it suspect. In ruling the image admissible, the court set out rules to guide future litigation. The court ruled that testimony must be given as to the computer used, the qualifications of the operators, the correct use of the equipment, and the clear identification of the enhancement process. (State v. Swinton, Connecticut Supreme Court, No. 16548, 2004)

Identity theft.

-  A bill introduced by Vermont lawmakers that would criminalize identity theft has been signed into law by Governor Jim Douglas. Under the new law, identity theft will become a felony. It will also be illegal to display Social Security numbers in public places. For example, liquor licenses will have to be redesigned with the owner's Social Security number omitted. The law will also allow victims of identity theft to freeze their credit information, making it a crime for a credit reporting agency to release further information without the consumer's authorization.


-  A California bill (S.B. 1834) would require businesses to notify patrons before using radio frequency identification technology (RFID) to track and collect information about customers. The bill would also require that all RFID tags be removed from merchandise before consumers leave the store. The bill has been approved by the California Senate and must now be taken up by the state assembly before moving forward.


- A bill (H.R. 4265) introduced by Rep. Mark Green (R-WI) would grant immunity from litigation to companies that donate equipment to charities. Under the law, companies could not be held liable for any death or injury arising from use of the donated equipment. Exceptions are made for injuries or death resulting from gross negligence or the intentional misconduct of the donating .

Homeland security

- A bill (S. 2635) introduced by Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) would establish a federal grant program totaling $25 million to identify and develop new homeland security equipment, capabilities, technologies, and services. The money could also be used to further develop existing capabilities and conduct research into other options. For-profit businesses, academic institutions, and nonprofits would all be eligible to receive the grants. The bill would also require that the government conduct an assessment of federal, state, and local governments as well as first responders on all levels to establish their information, equipment, and technology needs.

High-risk organizations

- A bill (S. 2275) that would require the government to give security assistance to high-risk nonprofit organizations has been approved by the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee. The bill must now be taken up by the full Senate.

Video voyeurism

- The House Judiciary Committee has approved a bill (S. 1301) that would make it illegal to surreptitiously videotape or photograph people in certain situations. Under the provision, which applies only in federal jurisdictions such as military bases, recording anyone naked or in a state of undress without that person's consent in situations where privacy can reasonably be expected would be illegal. The bill must now be approved by the full House of Representatives before it can be presented to the president for his approval.

Border protection

- A bill (S. 2295) introduced by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) that would establish a program for using advanced technology to meet border protection needs has been approved by the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee. It must now be taken up by the full House of Representatives to move forward.


- A bill (S. 1053) that would make it illegal to discriminate against someone on the basis of genetic information has been approved by the Senate and has been referred to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce. However, the committee is unlikely to consider the bill because of the backlog of funding and appropriations measures that must be considered by the committee before year's end.

Legal Reporter

- Was a violent attack on a concertgoer foreseeable? Plus cases on retaliatory discharge and libel, maritime regulation, and a bioterror law.

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