Warrant Searches of Computers

Last week, I posted a paper about warrantless searches of computers and electronic devices. Today, I’m posting its companion: this paper about warrant searches of computers, which I have just finished updating today. Although the paper focuses on computers, the principles discussed in the paper apply equally to other electronic devices.

It turns out that North Carolina has a significant case regarding warrant searches: State v. Peterson, 179 N.C. App. 437 (2006), aff’d, 361 N.C. 587 (2007), which holds that, on the facts of that case, although there was probable cause to search a residence for evidence of a homicide, there was no probable cause to search computers at the residence. The court of appeals emphasized that “[t]he affidavit does not include any indication . . . that would suggest a search of defendant’s computer would lead to information regarding the potential homicide.” But while Peterson is a helpful starting point for analyzing some computer search warrant issues, there are many, many issues on which we have no North Carolina cases. The paper collects relevant cases from across the country and should be useful to anyone thinking about these matters.

As with the previous paper, if you think that I’ve overlooked or omitted cases that should be included, please let me know.

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