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Privacy The Courts United States

US Court Dings Gov't For Using Seized Data Beyond Scope of Warrant 63

Posted by timothy
from the can't-just-go-fishing dept.
An anonymous reader writes The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit last week reversed a tax evasion conviction against an accountant because the government had used data from his computers that were seized under a warrant targeting different suspects. The Fourth Amendment, the court pointed out, "prevents the seizure of one thing under a warrant describing another." Law enforcement originally made copies of his hard drives and during off-site processing, separated his personal files from data related to the original warrant. However, 1.5 years later, the government sifted through his personal files and used what it found to build a case against him. The appeals court held that "[i]f the Government could seize and retain non-responsive electronic records indefinitely, so it could search them whenever it later developed probable cause, every warrant to search for particular electronic data would become, in essence, a general warrant," which the Fourth Amendment protects against. The EFF hopes that the outcome of this appeal will have implications for the NSA's dragnet surveillance practice.
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US Court Dings Gov't For Using Seized Data Beyond Scope of Warrant

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  • by Charliemopps (1157495) on Tuesday June 24, 2014 @09:04AM (#47305697)

    Because the NSA is collecting the same kind of data, providing it to law enforcement, that then use the data to form a target and reverse engineer probable cause. The thing is, even though that sort of thing is clearly unconstitutional, they've crafted their methods in such a way that it would rarely, if ever, come up in a court room. So there is no court finding that state specifically that it's unconstitutional. Law enforcement has been pretending they're dumb in this regard and going along the lines "Well, no judge has told us we can't do this... so it must be ok" while at the same time doing everything in their power to prevent a judge from having to rule on it.

    Well, this states that it's clearly unconstitutional. But the government is taking any wiggle room they can find and just ignoring the law, court orders and the constitution, so I doubt this will change anything. The courts weren't really designed to deal with Law Enforcement trying to do an end-run around them. It's very difficult for the EFF and other like them to get a ruling on this behavior if the state never uses it in a case against someone.

  • To be Fair... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by kevmatic (1133523) on Tuesday June 24, 2014 @11:32AM (#47307105)

    According to Washington Post, they obtained a SECOND warrant for the tax evasion investigation- they didn't just pull the DVDs out of the cabinet and had a looksee- It just so happened they already had the data they needed. This means they ALREADY had probable cause before they pulled the DVDs out again. And they never looked at any data to investigate a crime that they didn't have a warrant for.

      I feel this really could have gone either way- the judge just erred on the side of caution here, which is good. It also makes keeping data around pretty much pointless for law enforcement...

  • Re:Subject (Score:0, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 24, 2014 @12:16PM (#47307497)

    I've been audited 4 times in the last 5 years.

    Because 5 years ago, in the first audit, the IRS seized $700 of my refund only to discovered that they DID, in fact, owe me those $700. Guess who never got his $700 back. Luckily, when I call about it, the agents helpfully acknowledge that I don't owe anything beyond the $700 they stole from me!

To avoid criticism, do nothing, say nothing, be nothing. -- Elbert Hubbard

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