Tampa Federal Criminal Defense Attorney has reviewed Government policies on Search and Seizure of Electronic Devices at borders. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) policy is to treat computers, laptops, and other electronic devices like suitcases and backpacks in terms of border searches. It appears under current DHS policy, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents believe they are not required to provide justification or a reason for these electronic searches.
In a response to a recent Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, CBP disclosed the following: Electronic devices that were searched included laptops, USB thumb drives, hard drives, cell phones, digital cameras, and even DVD disks . From October 2008 through June 2009, CBP officials searched over 1,500 electronic devices belonging to travelers.
Cell phones were the most often searched and seized devices between October 2008 and June 2009. From July 2008 to June 2009, and Border Protection (CBP) transferred electronic files found on travelers’ devices to third-party agencies almost 300 times. More than 80 percent of the transfers involved the CBP making copies of travelers’ files. Over half the time, these unknown agencies asserted independent bases for retaining or seizing the transferred files.
As a defense attorney, it appears that the best strategy when traveling is to leave electronic devices at home.
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Federal Defense Attorney on Search and Seizure of Electronic Devices
Computer Search Warrants
“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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Computer Search Warrant
Tampa Federal Criminal Defense Attorney, Lawyer W.F. ”Casey” Ebsary, Jr. , noted a recent case decided on the scope of search warrants issued in computer cases. Wired magazine noted:
“A divided 11-judge federal appeals court panel has dramatically narrowed the government’s search-and-seizure powers in the digital age, ruling Wednesday that federal prosecutors went too far when seizing 104 professional baseball players’ drug results when they had a warrant for just 10.”
The Court suggested that during a computer’s hard drive search, data should be culled to include the specific data described in the search warrant. The entire hard drive should not be subject to a wholesale review. When the entire drive is seized, an independent third party should review the data. The information should be limited by the Court. The term “filter teams” has been used to refer to the third party who review data seized by a search warrant.
The Appeals Court stated that the judge reviewing the search warrant application should “deny the warrant altogether” if the government does not agree to a third-party review in cases where data will be searched.
Has your data been the subject of a Search Warrant? We can help. Call Toll Free 1-877-793-9290 .
Computer Search Warrant Tampa – Overbroad