“Government cannot rely on the Fourth Amendment’s plain-view doctrine in cases where the investigators rely on the intermingling of computerized records”
Computer Search Warrants
Tampa Criminal Defense Attorney reports severe limits in Computer Search Warrants and Searches – Another court has laid out detailed procedures for issuance and execution of search warrants for computers that contain files outside the scope of a search warrant. The court ruled that the Government cannot rely on the Fourth Amendment’s plain-view doctrine in cases where the investigators rely on the intermingling of computerized records to justify a broad seizure and examination of electronically stored records. United States v.Comprehensive Drug Testing Inc., 9th Cir.(en banc), No. 05-10067 (8/26/09).
The court states, “The process of segregating electronic data that is seizable from that which is not must not become a vehicle for the government to gain access to data which it has no probable cause to collect.” The plain-view doctrine is an issue courts have been struggling with.
Detailed Procedures for Searches of Computer Electronic Data:
1. The government must not rely on the plain view doctrine in digital evidence cases.
2. Search must be either done by specialized personnel with a procedure to prevent disclosure investigators of information that is not the target of the warrant.
3. The government’s search method must be designed to uncover only the information for which it has probable cause.
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