by Mike Masnick
Mon, Oct 6th 2008 3:51pm
In a case where the legal implications should thrill any fans of Terry Gilliam's movie classic Brazil, the Supreme Court is set to examine if it's constitutional to convict someone, based on evidence that was only collected due to bad data in a government database. There's no question that a search of someone due to bad data in a database is unconstitutional, but the question is whether or not what's found in that search can then be used to charge someone. In this case, a bad (obsolete) database entry in a county database resulted in the search of an individual's car, where drugs and a firearm were found. This resulted in a conviction and jail time, but the search itself wasn't constitutional, because the data was incorrect. The appeals court let the conviction stand, oddly arguing that throwing out the conviction wouldn't put much pressure on governments to keep their data clean. The court also argues that anyone convicted as a result of such bad data, should simply file a separate, civil, lawsuit against the government. Of course, it seems like the bigger issue should simply be on the constitutionality of using any unconstitutionally obtained evidence in a lawsuit.
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