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Do the Due, Diligence: Trial Prep

trial

We recently encountered a challenging situation; In one matter: 20 witnesses to verify and serve, a week before the trial date. There were a myriad of reasons why the attorney was unprepared for trial (several incidents came to light during this hectic process) but below, we pass along several generic trial prep techniques:

1. Consult with your trial prep person well before trial.

Meeting with your trial prep firm allows the investigator to become aware of the case facts, and allots him/her the time to review the matter and then, formulate and execute an operations plan.  (There will always be last minute filings, service, subject locates… that have to be performed.  An experienced trial prep firm, however , has resources already in place for those unforeseen events.)

2. Basic Paperwork and Activity To Have Completed Pre-Trial

– Special Power of Attorney.  This should be obtained from the injured client from the outset.  (In this recent case, the client lived several states away and was not readily able to come up and sign authorizations.)

– HIPAA authorizations.  If there is a hint that the records may contain medical information,  a duly executed HIPAA authorization form must be attached to the subpoena request for testimony and or records.

– So Ordered Subpoenas.  Generally, among other criteria, if a city, state or federal agency is involved, a So Ordered Subpoena (signed by a judge) must be obtained at the trial court.

– Subject Locates – Don’t use the DIY  online searches that are readily available online.  The vast majority  of these sites yield information that, if correct, ages out at about 12 to 18 months old already.   Have your investigator conduct comprehensive locates, especially in cases that, for whatever reason (e.g., attorney substitution) have gone on for a while,

Tip:  When dealing with EMS documents, note the shield numbers.  If the shield number is 6,000 or above (e.g. Shield# 7206 or 6024) this is a private ambulance that has responded.  Do not subpoena the FDNY at MetroTech for the Ambulance Call Report.  They won’t have it.  In the section underneath “Comments” on the ACR, there is a field for Hosp #.  The number in that field reveals the hospital associated with the responding ambulance.   (There may be one of two numbers written into this field; a 3 digit number is the trauma center designation and the number in parens is the FDNY hospital code assignment.  Almost all EMS personnel use the 2 digit FDNY code. n parentheses)  See below for NY County Hospital Codes. (For other boroughs: shoot us an email, we’ll send you the links.)

Hospital Information

Hospital Name Disposition Code Hospital Name Disposition Code
Bellevue Hospital 712 (02) Beth Israel Medical Petrie Campus 713 (03)
Cabrini Medical 715 (63) Goldwater Memorial Hospital – Coler Site 714
Goldwater Memorial Hospital – Goldwater Site 720 Harlem Hospital 721 (07)
Hospital Joint Diseases Ortho. Inst. 735 Hospital For Special Surgery 723
North General Hospital 758 (09) Lenox Hill Hospital 728 (11)
Manhattan Eye, Ear & Throat Hospital 730 (05) Memorial Hospital – Cancer & Allied Diseases 731 (08)
Metropolitan Hospital 732 (12) Mount Sinai Hospital 734 (13)
New York Eye & Ear Infirmary 736 New York Presbyterian Hospital Weill Cornell 737 (14)
New York University Downtown Hospital 941 (01) New York University Hospitals 739 (15)
New York Presbyterian Hospital
Columbia Presbyterian Division
742 (17) New York Presbyterian Hospital – Allen Pavillion 749 (16)
Rockefeller University Hospital 743 St. Clares Hospital & Health 746 (19)
St. Lukes-Roosevelt Hosp.
Roosevelt Hospital Division
759 (18) St. Lukes-Roosevelt Hosp.
St. Luke’s Division
745 (20)
St. Vincents Hospital & Medical of NY 748 (21) Veterans Administration Hospital 724 (10)
Beth Israel Medical Singer Division 718 (04)
  • (Number in Parenthesis indicates FDNY Hopital Number)
  • ‡ indicates trauma center designation

BNI Operatives: Situationally aware.

As always, stay safe.

Operation Mickey Mouse? Facial Recognition & Disneyland

There is an internet story of a software engineer who, while visiting Disneyland,  went on a ride and was then offered – by a theme park employee –  a photo of himself and his girlfriend to buy – with his credit card information already linked to it.  The engineer emphatically stated that he had not entered any of his personal or credit card information on any of the theme park’s registers.  So, he determined, based on his professional experience, the system had to be using facial recognition technology to access and activate his personal facial and credit card information. He had never signed an agreement allowing the Mouse & Co. to do so, and believed that this use was illegal. He also stated that he believed Disney was sharing information related to facial recognition technology with the military.

As it turn out, he may not be wrong or very far off from the truth.

To understand how his claim of passive facial recognition might work let’s first define facial recognition technology: Facial recognition software (FRS) can pick someone’s face out of a crowd, extract the face from the rest of the scene and compare it to a database of stored images. In order for this software to work, it has to know how to differentiate between a basic face and the rest of the background. Facial recognition software is based on the ability to recognize a face and then measure the various features of the face.

Every face has numerous, distinguishable landmarks, the different peaks and valleys that make up facial features. FRS defines these landmarks as nodal points. Each human face has approximately 80 nodal points. Some of these measured by the software are:

•Distance between the eyes

•Width of the nose

•Depth of the eye sockets

•The shape of the cheekbones

•The length of the jaw line

These nodal points are measured creating a numerical code, called a faceprint, representing the face in the database.

Next, let’s review how facial recognition occurs.  (In the past, FRS use was limited to 2D facial images, and subject to many environmental factors, such as lighting or blurring, that restricted its use to primary law enforcement agencies for comparative analysis v. existing pictures of the subjects of interest. We are now well past that stage and into comparing live 3D images to networked databases worldwide.)

3D Facial Recognition   Facial recognition software uses a 3D model, which provides more accuracy than its 2D predecessor. Capturing a real-time 3D image of a person’s facial surface, 3D facial recognition uses distinctive features of the face — as outlined above — to identify the subject. These areas are all unique and don’t change over time.

Using depth and an axis of measurement that is not affected by lighting, 3D facial recognition can even be used in darkness and has the ability to recognize a subject at different view angles with the potential to recognize up to 90 degrees (a face in profile).

Using the 3D software, the system goes through a series of steps to verify the identity of an individual.

Detection

Acquiring an image can be accomplished by digitally scanning an existing photograph (2D) or by using a video image to acquire a live picture of a subject (3D).

Alignment

Once it detects a face, the system determines the head’s position, size and pose. As stated earlier, the subject has the potential to be recognized up to 90 degrees.

Measurement

The system then measures the curves of the face on a sub-millimeter (or microwave) scale and creates a template.

The system translates the template into a unique code. This coding gives each template a set of numbers to represent the features on a subject’s face.

Matching

If the image is 3D and the database contains 3D images, then matching will take place without any changes being made to the image. However, there is a challenge currently facing databases that are still in 2D images. 3D provides a live, moving variable subject being compared to a flat, stable image. New technology is addressing this challenge. When a 3D image is taken, different points (usually three) are identified. For example, the outside of the eye, the inside of the eye and the tip of the nose will be pulled out and measured. Once those measurements are in place, an algorithm (a step-by-step procedure) will be applied to the image to convert it to a 2D image. After conversion, the software will then compare the image with the 2D images in the database to find a potential match.

Verification or Identification

In verification, an image is matched to only one image in the database (1:1). For example, an image taken of a subject may be matched to an image in the Department of Motor Vehicles database to verify the subject is who he says he is. If identification is the goal, then the image is compared to all images in the database resulting in a score for each potential match (1:N). In this instance, you may take an image and compare it to a database of mug shots to identify who the subject is.

Facial Recognition Systems Uses

Law enforcement:  Aside from the obvious background identification and history of arrested suspects, l.e. uses the system to capture random faces in crowds to match to their terrorist databases. .

Government agencies: Some government agencies have also been using the systems for

– security

– monitor voter fraud

– eliminate “buddy punching” (The practice of a coworker signing for a friend or displaying that friend’s id for UPC processing. )

– tracking foreign visitors and frequent flyers  (The Department of Homeland Security has implemented a program called US-VISIT, United States Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology, aimed at foreign travelers gaining entry to the United States. When a foreign traveler receives his visa, he will submit fingerprints and have his photograph taken. The fingerprints and photograph are checked against a database of known criminals and suspected terrorists.  Likewise,  the TSA is runs its Registered Traveler program through FRS.

Other potential applications currently in use include ATM and check-cashing security and access to your own lap/desk top via the monitor’s FR program.

To get back to our irate software engineer, he is correct in identifying Disneyland’s use of facial recognition software and sharing it with the United States Department of Defense.  This collusion is referred to as Operation Mickey Mouse (not joking) and has been in effect for decades. Who would suspect the family friendly theme park of being a de facto arm of the government?

Now the vast majority of us will never really notice how much facial recognition has creeped into our lives — but if there is a foul-up, you can expect it to be a big deal.  ALL government FR dbases will have to be updated if a modification (e.g., surgically enhanced faces) occurs.

Our operatives: Situationally aware.

As always, stay safe.

The ICE-man cometh… Gaming the SSA.

 The situation U.S. employers now face regarding hiring is bearing the legal onus to the question, “Is this person allowed to legally work in the United States?”

The United States  Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has now fully implemented (commenced in 2011) an online services program in which one can immediately check his/her immigration work status, such site under the law enforcement jurisdiction of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).   The program Self-Check allows an individual to review his information and research the  information that federal agencies such as the SSA, Homeland Security, USCIS

Self-Check comes on the heels of regulation being pushed by legislators that requires  all employers to verify the immigration status of employees via an online program, Verify.  (We have major reservations [still] about E-Verify in that there are so  many ways to get around its confirmation process [as has been reported lately on the use of the SSNs of dead folks by illegal immigrants] and on a more serious note, makes employers a de facto arm of law enforcement is an abhorrent concept.)

To review,  prior to an employee with a potential “glitch” in his employment status applying for a job, (wherein the employer would have to validate his legal standing to work), he can check his own status online by himself.  Within that self-check, s/he can then determine the appropriate corrections necessary, if any. There are enough loop holes in this 2-tiered program to run a circus through.

Step One:  Check hirability.  The answers to the Self-Check questions are based primarily on the address history of the person applying.   Once someone has obtained a SSN or a TIN (taxpayer identification number), running a reverse address check is very easy and often free online.  (We’re not going to tell people how to do it but given our experience, take our word for it that acquiring address histories is a cake walk, especially for a determined person.)

Step Two: Establish an E-Verify’d account.  In this portion of the Self-Check process, once an applicant has been given clearance by USCIS as being hirable – via Step One above –  that individual then sets up an E-Verify account in which information will be stored for access by potential employers.   So anyone with an SSN or TIN and birth and address history can legitimize his/her identity.   How do future employers know then who is really showing up for work?  S/he won’t.

The major issue with Self-Check and  E-Verify then is of identity verification.  (Note:   E-Verify claims that in the future, it will  include a photo comparison – courtesy of Homeland Security – but they won’t release the collection data criteria.)  Will the Social Security Administration continue to issue the harder-to-track TINs? Will the IRS verify the jobs held and dates of employment assigned to each SSN? As we found out last week when millions of illegal aliens were discovered to be using the SSNs of dead people, not likely.)

Self-Check and E-Verify are good starts in the effort in removing the unwanted competition between legally hirable employees and undocumented immigrants for work but,  where employers part with these government plans is on the issue of liability.  If a person desires  to “get over” on the system, they will.  If an employer has complied with E-Verify and other hiring regulations (which obviously to date have not really turned out all that well), why should the employer be held responsible to a system in which she had no input in designing?  And the employer will face penalties for hiring errors regardless of compliance with E-Verify. The obvious work facility access requirement – a retinal scan , fingerprint, non-invasive DNA monitor, appears logical  but then we have to consider the “privacy” issues these suggestions will undoubtedly raise.

Trust, but E-Verify.  We’ve reached that point.

BNI Operatives: Situationally aware.

As always, stay safe.

Your Tattletale License Plates

lps (3)

The Automatic License Plate Recognition (ALPR) scanning systems are one of the newest law enforcement technologies. The system consists of cameras mounted on police cars, hooked up to a computer inside the vehicle.  License plates images are scanned and matched to a real-time centralized database. This database flags vehicles that have been identified as

  • Stolen Vehicles
  • Wanted for an Amber Alert
  • Expired Registration
  • Expired Insurance
  • Wanted as “Persons of Interest” for any investigation
  • Suspended Driver’s License
  • Outstanding Criminal Warrant
  • Outstanding Municipal Taxes or other Fines and Fees
  • Are Wanted for any other government purpose

The system is matched to the vehicle’s owner via a DMV database. So, you can just be driving along and find yourself pulled over by the police, not having committed any traffic violation.

How Many License Tags Can Be Scanned?

Short answer: thousands of tags per hour.  One police car parked on the side of a road can scan just about every car in sight, including one driving in the opposite direction at 70 miles an hour.  (No, the answer is not to drive 80 mph +.)

What Happens To The Scanned Images?

Every image is time, date and location saved.  Permanently.  So now reports of your driving locations (whether you were stopped or not) have become records and collected into various databases: those of state and local law enforcement, DMVs and the FBI‘s National Crime Information Center (NCIC).

The Problem, You Ask?

As more systems go online and interconnect across local, state and federal jurisdictions,  police can easily identify the touch points of any scanned tag’s vehicle location.

You can easily imagine the knock on your door if you (probably unknowingly… I allot the benefit of the doubt), stopped in front of  a known drug dealing location, parked by a wanted person’s vehicle or passed a toll directly behind a person suspected of a crime.  BTW, how many times have you attended political events?  Call the cops, they’ll let you know.

The truth is that the use this placement data can be used as circumstantial evidence against you and we’ll soon find many innocent people in court, defending their drive down Main Street.

Aren’t These License Tag Scanners Violating My Rights??

No.  According to the law, you have no expectation of privacy while out in public.  This has already been through the courts which have upheld that police officers are allowed to randomly run license tags as they pass by.

In the case of United States of America, Plaintiff-appellee, v. Charles N. Matthews, the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit held that a “license plate was in plain view on the outside of the car” and hence, is “subject to seizure” because there is no reasonable expectation of privacy.

In the case of United States of America, Plaintiff v. Curtis Ellison, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit held:

Thus, so long as the officer had a right to be in a position to observe the defendant’s license plate, any such observation and corresponding use of the information on the plate does not violate the Fourth Amendment.

These new ALRP scanning systems simply allow the scanning to be more comprehensive in the number of tags scanned and permanent.

Bottom line.

Someone should be asking if any restrictions exist on the use of this data to check up on ordinary Joes and Janes, going about their regular business.

BNI Operatives: Street smart; info savvy. 

As always, stay safe.

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