DOJ Dismisses Case After Court Explains That Feds Can't Just Grab Someone's Laptop At The Border

from the tail-tucked dept

Remember the 4th Amendment? We hear it’s making a comeback. Back in May, we had a story about another court explaining to the government that, contrary to popular belief within Homeland Security, the 4th Amendment does still apply at the border, and thus Border Patrol can’t just take someone’s laptop without a warrant.

The case involved a guy named Jae Shik Kim, who the government suspected was shipping items to China that were then being forwarded to Iran. Because of that, DHS grabbed his laptop as he was leaving the US (on a flight to Korea). The DOJ argued that the laptop was a “container” subject to search at the border. The court disabused the DOJ of this notion:

After considering all of the facts and authorities set forth above, then, the Court finds, under the totality of the unique circumstances of this case, that the imaging and search of the entire contents of Kim?s laptop, aided by specialized forensic software, for a period of unlimited duration and an examination of unlimited scope, for the purpose of gathering evidence in a pre-existing investigation, was supported by so little suspicion of ongoing or imminent criminal activity, and was so invasive of Kim?s privacy and so disconnected from not only the considerations underlying the breadth of the government?s authority to search at the border, but also the border itself, that it was unreasonable.

Given an opportunity to respond, the DOJ has dropped the entire case.

The United States, by and through its attorney, the Acting United States Attorney for the District of Columbia, respectfully moves this Court to dismiss the Indictment against the defendants. As grounds for this motion, the government states the following: in a Memorandum Opinion and Order, filed on May 8, 2015, the Court granted the defendants? motion to suppress evidence, and the government has decided not to pursue an appeal of that decision. Accordingly, the government is unable to continue prosecuting this matter, and we therefore move the Court to dismiss the Indictment pending against the defendants.

Yup. Next time, maybe don’t violate the 4th Amendment.

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Comments on “DOJ Dismisses Case After Court Explains That Feds Can't Just Grab Someone's Laptop At The Border”

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22 Comments
Klaus says:

Re: Great decision...but

“…for a period of unlimited duration…”

Unless there’s a compelling reason to, (and if there was, the Border Patrol should be applying for a warrant) why on earth would there be a need to take someone’s laptop for an unlimited duration? Imaging a hard drive doesn’t take long, the forensic analysis can be done later.

So I really don’t get what Border Patrol are up to. The only rational explanation I can think of is that they are out to be dicks.

And yes, I’m being serious…

Anonymous Coward says:

The government would rather drop a case against a serial killer if it meant saving them the ability to continue spy on others illegally.

Proof is this case, as well as the one where they dropped a kidnapping case just so they don’t unveil they were using Stingrays to catch the guy.

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2015/08/23/baltimore-police-stingray-cell-surveillance/31994181/

Disgusting.

Sheogorath (profile) says:

The United States, by and through its attorney, the Acting United States Attorney for the District of Columbia, respectfully moves this Court to dismiss the Indictment against the defendants. As grounds for this motion, the government states the following: in a Memorandum Opinion and Order, filed on May 8, 2015, the Court granted the defendants’ motion to suppress evidence, and the government has decided not to pursue an appeal of that decision. Accordingly, the government is unable to continue prosecuting this matter, and we therefore move the Court to dismiss the Indictment pending against the defendants.
I know the Department of Justice is saying that they don’t intend to pursue prosecution of this case in the above quoted statement, but let’s hope the judge dismissed with prejudice anyway. The DOJ has changed its mind before, after all.

Anonymous Coward says:

…The DOJ argued that the laptop was a “container” subject to search at the border…

That’s coming into the US. He was leaving. Since when has Customs searched departing “containers”? I would think that if Customs actually searched departing containers they would be finding quite a bit of stolen material.

You know damn well the country he’s going to will have the same subject to search policies. Most countries, however, do NOT have the US’ 4th Amendment protections.

jilocasin (profile) says:

Drop it before a more widly applicable precedent is set

It’s all S.O.P. for the DOJ.

Never appeal a case where some judge calls out their obviously illegal actions. In this way they can try to minimize the precedent setting and limit the damage to as small an area as possible.

With a single judge, maybe that town/county/state. If they’re lucky it’ll only be limited to that particular judge. With an appellate loss, they loose the ability to successfully engage in those shenanigans across an entire appellate circuit.

David says:

A comeback?

Remember the 4th Amendment? We hear it’s making a comeback.

Are we talking about the same U.S.A. here? There are sometimes news about it bleeding on the boots it’s being kicked with. That’s not exactly the same thing as a comeback.

Same here. One stupid judge doesn’t see things the American way? Dismiss, go to the next. The uppity citizen will have paid 100 times in legal representation what the government stole from him anyway.

This is not going to make people fear the government less.

Personanongrata says:

Lions, Tigers and Bears, Oh My!

DOJ Dismisses Case After Court Explains That Feds Can’t Just Grab Someone’s Laptop At The Border

The terrorists will surely win now that the US government (I repeat myself the terrorists and US government are one in the same) and it’s petty tyrants have been reminded that they cannot Just Grab Someone’s Laptop At The Border and peruse it’s contents.

If only the court would sanction these constitution abdicating tyrants perhaps we would see the beginning of an end to the US governments tyranny.

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