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The Fourth Amendment and the Potential Use of Field-Portable Mass Spectrometry Systems in Law Enforcement

NCJ Number
Journal of Crime & Justice Volume: 42 Issue: 3 Dated: 2019 Pages: 316-330
Michael C. Gizzi; Alessandra M. Bruno; Christopher E. Mulligan
Date Published
15 pages
This article reports on a project that examined the potential uses of portable mass spectrometry devices by law enforcement and analyzes the legal challenges that its use would present.

The advent of new technology presents new opportunities for law enforcement administrators and new legal challenges for the courts. One such new technology is portable mass spectrometry. Such devices are powerful analytical tools that can be used in the field to identify a wide range of contraband and other dangerous materials, including illegal drugs, explosive residue, and toxic substances. Because criminal justice practice and legal analysis often lag behind the development and use of new technologies, it is useful to compare them to current methods for detecting contraband. In the case of portable mass spectrometry, the closest comparison would be the use of narcotics detection canine sniffs. Case law concerning dog sniffs is examined and predictions are made regarding the application of those legal guidelines to the use of portable mass spectrometry. (publisher abstract modified)