Cyber Bytes from Quinlan

Source: Quinlan Law Enforcement E-News Alert, July 16, 2009.

Warrant to seize computer records
In a case involving a narcotics arrest, the court held that a warrant allowing for the seizure of “computerized records” authorized the investigators serving the warrant to seize the defendant’s computers. The defendant argued that because the warrant did not specifically list “computers” as an item to be seized, the seizure of the computers was outside the scope of the warrant. The court reasoned that anyone with a minimum of computer knowledge would understand that seizing “computer records” would necessitate seizing the actual computers those records were contained within. The court did, however, note that seized computers should not be kept by the government indefinitely after the seizure.
Citation: U.S. v. Reynolds, 2009 WL 1588413 (E.D. Tenn. 2009)

Wire fraud
A court affirmed a conviction for wire fraud and held that the application of a mass-marketing sentencing enhancement was appropriate, as the defendant used the Internet to conduct large-scale advertising to attract bidders to his fraudulent online auctions. The defendant used two Internet auction Web sites to defraud successful bidders on items he had listed for sale. He would list an item for auction, accept the highest bid, cash the check sent to him by the winning bidder, and ship a product far inferior to the one advertised on the Web site. The defendant argued that he should not have been given the sentence enhancement, since there can be only one winner in an auction, and therefore, it was not mass marketing. The court disagreed, noting that his fraud had the potential to draw in a great number of people, and therefore the sentence enhancement was appropriate.
Citation: U.S. v. Heckel, 2009 WL 1739909 (7th Cir. 2009)

Border search of laptop
In a case involving the search of a laptop at an international airport, a court denied the defendant’s motion to suppress the evidence, as the search met the requirements of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The defendant boarded a flight from Singapore to the United States. Upon his arrival to the United States, law enforcement agents conducted a search pursuant to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act on the defendant’s carry-on luggage, which included his laptop computer and other electronic media. Law enforcement agents created a mirrored hard drive of the defendant’s laptop computer for subsequent analysis. The other contents of the defendant’s carry-on luggage, which included hand-written notes, articles, and brochures regarding missile technology, were also examined. The court found that the government agents had acted under probable cause and had submitted the necessary documents in order to perform the search.
Citation: U.S. v. Gowadia, 2009 WL 1649709 (D. Haw. 2009)

Unauthorized use of a computer
In a case involving accessing a computer without authorization, a court upheld the convictions of two men, one of whom was a deputy sheriff. The deputy used his position as a law enforcement official to access the NCIC computer database to unlawfully obtain information for the defendant. The defendant then used this information to extort, threaten, and commit, or procure others to commit, acts of violence. The actions taken by the deputy were completed under the direction, and for the benefit, of the defendant. Therefore, the court upheld the conviction.
Citation: Collins v. U.S., 2009 WL 1850199 (M.D. Fla. 2009)

Computer search
In a habeus corpus pleading, the defendant argued that his office computer, which contained evidence that implicated him in his wife’s murder, should not have been searched since the affidavit accompanying the warrant application contained no information suggesting that he communicated with his mistress using e-mail. The court found that the affidavit was sufficient, since it contained enough information about the defendant’s affair and behaviors to allow an inference that he used the computer to communicate with his mistress.
Citation: Guthrie v. Weber, 2009 SD 42, 2009 WL 1628500 (S.D. 2009)

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