Update on Unauthorized Access to a Computer

As I noted in a previous post, it is a crime under G.S. 14-454(b) “willfully and without authorization . . .  [to] access[] . . . any computer.” I posed a few scenarios in that earlier post, including one in which a judge tells a law clerk not to use the internet during business hours … Read more

Restrictions on Computer or Internet Use as Part of a Sentence

Jamie recently blogged here about ad hoc conditions of probation, i.e., conditions other than the statutory ones. Because I’m interested in criminal law and technology, I wanted to add a follow-up post about restrictions on computer or internet use as part of a criminal sentence. It’s a timely topic, both because of Jamie’s post and … Read more

Discovery in Child Pornography Cases

There’s a recurrent discovery issue in child pornography cases. Generally, it goes like this: the defendant is arrested and charged with a child pornography offense. The prosecution contends that the defendant’s computer contains images of child pornography. The defendant retains a computer expert to examine his computer, hoping to show that the images were downloaded … Read more

Solicitation of a Child by Computer

When a person over 16, using a computer or other electronic device, and with the “intent to commit an unlawful sex act, entices, advises, coerces, orders, or commands” a person under 16 and at least five years younger than the first person to meet for the purpose of committing an unlawful sex act, the first … Read more

Unauthorized Access to a Computer

What does it mean to access a computer without authorization? It’s an important question. North Carolina’s computer crime statutes appear at G.S. 14-453 et seq. Among other things, the statutes make it illegal “willfully and without authorization . . . [to] access[] . . . any computer.” The crime of unauthorized access is more serious … Read more

Computer Searches and Plain View II

When a law enforcement officer is entitled to search a computer for evidence, she typically is entitled to look at every file on the computer, at least briefly. That’s because files that contain evidence of a crime may not be named drugtransactions.doc, but instead may be labeled airconditioningrepairbill.pdf, or something equally misleading and innocuous. Because … Read more

Computer Searches and Plain View

Computers and electronic storage media can hold massive quantities of data. At approximately 30,000 pages per gigabyte, a low-end laptop computer with a 250 gigabyte hard drive can store the equivalent of more than 7 million pages of paper. That’s thousands of bankers’ boxes worth, or as many pages as you’d find at a branch … Read more

Do Officers Need More than a Warrant to Search a Computer?

The Ninth Circuit recently decided United States v. Payton, a computer search case that quietly adopts some pretty radical ideas. Based on the lack of comments on my previous computer search posts — here and here –most of you aren’t keenly interested in the application of the Fourth Amendment to emerging technologies, but Payton strikes … Read more

Pedophilia and Probable Cause

I’m getting ready to teach a session at the Superior Court Judges’ Conference about searches of computers and other electronic devices, so I’ve been reading all the computer search cases I can get my hands on. Recently, I stumbled on United States v. Crespo-Rios, __ F. Supp. 2d __, 2009 WL 1595463 (D. Puerto Rico … Read more

Computer Searches and the Scope of Consent

Most readers of this blog know (1) that a search done pursuant to consent doesn’t violate the Fourth Amendment, but (2) that the scope of search is limited by the terms of the consent.  Thus, if Ollie Officer asks Sam Suspect whether he can search Sam’s house for the body of Vickie Victim, and Sam … Read more