20 Years for Clearings Your Browser History?
Berkeley Crim. L. J., 2017, Forthcoming
31 Pages Posted: 20 Nov 2016 Last revised: 21 Mar 2017
Date Written: 2016
In today’s world, average people create and delete massive amounts of digital data every single day. And most of the time people can do so without expecting the Department of Justice to come knocking. But deleting digital data—including clearing browser history—can result in federal felony obstruction of justice charges under 18 U.S.C. § 1519, the federal anti- shredding statute, which carries a 20-year maximum penalty. It is thus vital that citizens understand what is and is not illegal under § 1519.
Unfortunately, understanding what the statute prohibits is a difficult task. Indeed, this Article will argue that § 1519 has a vagueness problem. That is, the statute arguably fails “to provide a person of ordinary intelligence fair notice of what is prohibited” and “is so standardless that it authorizes or encourages seriously discriminatory enforcement.”2 This Article brings attention to § 1519’s vagueness problem and suggests possible solutions. Specifically, it recommends that the courts either impose a “nexus requirement” on §1519 or limit enforcement to the corporate crime context.
Keywords: obstruction of justice, digital data, national security, terrorism, Boston marathon bombing, Tsarnaev, Matanov, vagueness
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation