Fourth Amendment Seizures of Computer Data
25 Pages Posted: 13 Apr 2009 Last revised: 29 Jun 2013
Date Written: 2010
What does it mean to "seize" computer data for Fourth Amendment purposes? Does copying data amount to a seizure, and if so, when? This essay argues that copying data “seizes” it under the Fourth Amendment when copying occurs without human observation and interrupts the stream of its possession or transmission. It offers this position by reaching back to the general purposes of regulating seizures in Fourth Amendment law and then applying that function to the new environment of computers. The test prevents the government from copying data without regulation and yet also meets and answers the objections that have puzzled scholars and made it difficult to apply the old definition of seizures in the new computer environment.
Keywords: computer data, fourth amendment, seizures
JEL Classification: K20, K10
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation