Friday, December 24, 2010 – 02:45 p.m.

The past four months has delivered huge wins for privacy rights advocates and criminal defense attorneys across the country.

This month, the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has joined the First U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and ruled that the government must show probable cause and obtain a search warrant before seizing privately stored e-mails of individuals.

The above matter was ruled on in the case U.S. vs Warshak where the court said,

Given the fundamental similarities between email and traditional forms of communication [like postal mail and telephone calls], it would defy common sense to afford emails lesser Fourth Amendment protection…. It follows that email requires strong protection under the Fourth Amendment; otherwise the Fourth Amendment would prove an ineffective guardian of private communication, an essential purpose it has long been recognized to serve…. [T]he police may not storm the post office and intercept a letter, and they are likewise forbidden from using the phone system to make a clandestine recording of a telephone call–unless they get a warrant, that is. It only stands to reason that, if government agents compel an ISP to surrender the contents of a subscriber’s emails, those agents have thereby conducted a Fourth Amendment search, which necessitates compliance with the warrant requirement….

In September, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal ruled search warrants are required to recover computer data, but lessened its original requirement that the warrant must specifically articulate what information was to be culled from the computer search.

In August, the Tenth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the use of cell phone GPS or “Tele-Track” surveillance devices require the issuance of a search warrant as well.