What should I do if the authorities want to search my computer?

On behalf of Jack B. Rubin, PA posted in Internet Crimes on Thursday, January 28, 2016.

Having the police come to your home to search or seize your computer can be an extremely stressful experience. First, their very presence is a form of accusation and intimidation. The only reason the authorities would want to take your computer or search your files is because they believe they will find some sort of incriminating evidence.

There are any number of things the police may be looking for when they search the contents of a computer. They may think a hard drive or server contains files that are connected to the commission of financial crimes such as embezzlement or identity theft. Or they could be looking for something that is in and of itself illegal, such as child pornography. Regardless of their intentions, if you are the subject of a search, it is critical to remember that you have rights.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation offers citizens the following advice for dealing with police who want to search or seize your computer:

  • If the authorities claim to have a warrant, ask them to show it to you. Read the warrant carefully and make sure they only conduct searches in the areas authorized by the warrant.
  • If the police do not have a warrant, it is best to not voluntarily consent to the search. Inform the police they will need a warrant if they want access to your property.
  • Do not interfere once the police have started their search.
  • Be aware that you have the right to remain silent as the search is being conducted. You also do not have to acquiesce to requests for passwords or encryption keys.

Whatever the police may be looking for, you can be certain that it relates to something very serious. As such, it is important to get in touch with an attorney as soon as possible once you realize you are the subject of an investigation

The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution grants you rights regarding searches and seizures. If the authorities should violate those rights, any evidence discovered in their search could be deemed inadmissible. If your rights were violated, an attorney may be able to help get the charges dismissed. An attorney may also be able to help get your confiscated property back.

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