Court Limits eMail Search Warrants

03 September 2013 Internet, IT & e-Discovery Blog Blog
Authors: Peter Vogel

Search warrants were rejected because they required “...each Provider to disclose all email communications in their entirety and all information about the account without restriction.” On August 27, 2013 US Magistrate Judge David J. Waxse denied the government’s request under the 1986 Stored Communication Act to require Google, GoDaddy, Verizon, Yahoo!, and Skype regarding an alleged $5,000 theft of computer equipment: disclose copies of electronic communications—including the contents of all emails, instant messages, and chatlogs/sessions—and other account-related information for the accounts identified in the ...“target accounts”...

As part of the Order Judge Waxse held:

...that an individual has a reasonable expectation of privacy in emails stored with, sent to, or received thorough an electronic communications service provider.

A warrant seeking stored electronic communications such as emails therefore should be subject to the same basic requirements of any search warrant: it must be based on probable cause, meet particularity requirements, be reasonable in nature of breadth, and be supported by affidavit

Judge Waxse was concerned: the lack of any limits on the government’s review of the information, such as filtering procedures for emails and information that do not fall within the scope of probable cause or contain attorney-client privileged communications.

Although the US Supreme Court has not ruled on the Stored Communications Act related to emails, this ruling is important as it helps set standards for search warrants.

This blog is made available by Foley & Lardner LLP (“Foley” or “the Firm”) for informational purposes only. It is not meant to convey the Firm’s legal position on behalf of any client, nor is it intended to convey specific legal advice. Any opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of Foley & Lardner LLP, its partners, or its clients. Accordingly, do not act upon this information without seeking counsel from a licensed attorney. This blog is not intended to create, and receipt of it does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship. Communicating with Foley through this website by email, blog post, or otherwise, does not create an attorney-client relationship for any legal matter. Therefore, any communication or material you transmit to Foley through this blog, whether by email, blog post or any other manner, will not be treated as confidential or proprietary. The information on this blog is published “AS IS” and is not guaranteed to be complete, accurate, and or up-to-date. Foley makes no representations or warranties of any kind, express or implied, as to the operation or content of the site. Foley expressly disclaims all other guarantees, warranties, conditions and representations of any kind, either express or implied, whether arising under any statute, law, commercial use or otherwise, including implied warranties of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Foley or any of its partners, officers, employees, agents or affiliates be liable, directly or indirectly, under any theory of law (contract, tort, negligence or otherwise), to you or anyone else, for any claims, losses or damages, direct, indirect special, incidental, punitive or consequential, resulting from or occasioned by the creation, use of or reliance on this site (including information and other content) or any third party websites or the information, resources or material accessed through any such websites. In some jurisdictions, the contents of this blog may be considered Attorney Advertising. If applicable, please note that prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. Photographs are for dramatization purposes only and may include models. Likenesses do not necessarily imply current client, partnership or employee status.


Related Services