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Christopher Wilde
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Thursday, April 24, 2008

Beware! Search and Seizure is the New Standard

Reported yesterday, two court cases affecting the loss of your rights to be protected from search and seizure.  If you are pulled over for any traffic violation, even an illegal violation, the police have the right to search you.  This stems from a Virginia case in which David Lee Moore was arrested on an illegal stop, searched, and crack cocaine was found.  The Virginia Supreme Court had ruled that the police could not conduct the search, but the US Supreme court over turned that decision.

"Where history provides no conclusive answer, this Court has analyzed a search or seizure in light of traditional reasonableness standards “by assessing, on the one hand, the degree to which it intrudes upon an individual’s privacy and, on the other, the degree to which it is needed for the promotion of legitimate governmental interests.” Wyoming v. Houghton, 526 U. S. 295, 300. Applying that methodology, this Court has held that when an officer has probable cause to believe a person committed even a minor crime, the arrest is constitutionally reasonable."  Justice Scalia


In another case coming from the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, USA vs. Arnold  the court ruled that electronic devices, a laptop, could be searched like luggage by customs and border patrol. It is expected this will be extended to cell phones and other electronic devices such a digital cameras and ipods.  While this case is in regard to coming into the country, I wouldn't be surprised to see it extended to all air travel under the theory that potential terrorists could be carrying plans of terrorist activities on their laptops.

It will be interesting to see what the government will do when someone brings in a laptop with severe encryption.  To what degree will they try and crack it, and will the encryption alone be grounds enough to hold the laptop for a deeper investigation.


More on this later...

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