Can Law Enforcement *Really* Search Everything on your Computer or Phone?
This article will discuss the legal issues surrounding the capacity for law enforcement and the courts to search business files. Since more businesses are digitizing their files different procedures are now necessary in order to legally acquire subpoenas. Occasionally, search warrants are not considered to be necessary.
This depends on whether there is a possibility for the files to all be private. Employees are not guaranteed protection of privacy if they use computers and other kinds of systems on the premises of businesses.
Under most circumstances, the search and seizure of a computer or phone that is the personal property of an individual cannot be carried out without explicit permission of the owner.
General searches without an explicit purpose are usually not granted search and seizure rights, per the fourth amendment in the Constitution.
There are many constitutional limits regarding searches and seizures. It is worth quoting the Fourth Amendment here:
“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
Seizure occurs when there is something necessary to the interests of the courts and the legal proceedings of a case. Since digital records are by and large considered to be intangible communications, different rulings are defined.
What gauges the rights of the citizen and the rights of the government is typically rooted in an abstraction of what would be considered an infringement of privacy. There is not a clear line dictating the difference between an unreasonable expectation of privacy and a reasonable expectation of privacy. However, businesses typically orient their expectation of privacy in the business owner, and not the individual employees’ opinions about reasonable expectation of privacy.