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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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Aug 2015 @ 10:50am

    Great decision...but

    What happens next time? Will the court find the same situation unreasonable, or will they fold?

    It's sad that they consistently push the boundaries on our rights assuming they'll get away with it more often than not...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Klaus, 24 Aug 2015 @ 11:23pm

      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...

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Kode (profile), 25 Aug 2015 @ 7:04am

        Re: Re: Great decision...but

        Imaging the hard drive is the unlimited duration they are talking about, as in, once they imaged the hard drive and gave the laptop back, they could search the contents of the image for an unlimited duration

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Aug 2015 @ 10:58am

    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/319941 81/

    Disgusting.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Aug 2015 @ 11:03am

    Bet he's not going to get his laptop back though.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Aug 2015 @ 11:28am

    Got what they wanted

    Two words: Parallel Construction

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Sheogorath (profile), 24 Aug 2015 @ 12:05pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Aug 2015 @ 12:52pm

    ...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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 25 Aug 2015 @ 8:38am

      Re:

      Almost all countries don't do evil things like this. Might be hard for you to swallow but your US is an evil country.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    jilocasin (profile), 24 Aug 2015 @ 12:59pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    David, 24 Aug 2015 @ 1:02pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Personanongrata, 24 Aug 2015 @ 1:04pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Aug 2015 @ 4:18pm

    bullies tend to back down when their victim stands up to them instead of cowering in fear

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      David, 24 Aug 2015 @ 9:16pm

      Re:

      Law enforcement stands up to the bullying of the Constitution instead of cowering in fear, and the Constitution backs down.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Aug 2015 @ 10:14pm

    Be nice if

    It sure would be nice if the defendants could file suit against the government, rather than the Government just saying, "No harm, no foul."

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Rekrul, 24 Aug 2015 @ 10:44pm

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

    Techdirt is posting comedy now?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    USA CIT, 25 Aug 2015 @ 9:25am

    We need the rights, not others

    Americans deserve these rights, not just citizens of other nations. Im tired of having to go through dui checks and have my family car searched because i have anxiety issues.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      John Fenderson (profile), 26 Aug 2015 @ 6:40am

      Re: We need the rights, not others

      Blanket DUI checks are not legal in every state. You might consider moving to one that is a bit less jackbooted.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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