This note will discuss legal issues related to search and seizure of computers and define the trend that the law is taking in the emerging area of inquiry. Personal privacy protection will be adequate regarding computer searches and seizures only if the courts properly balance the government's interests in bringing criminals to justice against citizens' interests against overly broad inquiries into the personal affairs. Section II provides a limited general discussion of constitutional limitations on search and seizure. Section III will discuss search and seizure of computers in the context of the "plain view" doctrine as an exception to the general requirement of a warrant for searches and seizures and will show that the "plain view" doctrine does not apply to closed computer files. Section IV will focus on search and seizure of computers based on information provided by private party informants. While the government may make use of informant provided information, the use is limited and subject to specific criteria. The note will examine the scope of search and seizure and particularity of warrants with regard to the problem of intermingled documents and the closed container analogy in Section V. A brief review of the grand jury subpoena process, as an alternative to the search warrant, will be considered in Section VI. In closing, this note will summarize the general direction that computer search and seizure law has taken and provide comments as to the appropriateness of the direction that the law has taken.
Note, Computer Searches and Seizure, 48 Clev. St. L. Rev. 185 (2000)