Skip navigation
× You have 2 more free articles available this month. Subscribe today.

DOJ Issues Guidelines for Seizing and Searching Computers

The Department of Justice has issued its guidelines concerning the search and seizure of computers and related equipment and information. The guidelines were compiled by attorneys, technical experts and agents from nearly a dozen law enforcement agencies and address a wide range of issues related to computers, from basic definitions of computer equipment to sample search warrant applications. The stated reason for producing the guidelines is to provide systematic guidance to federal law enforcement agencies and US attorneys.

The guidelines were issued in July, 1994, and have been circulated since then within the federal law enforcement community. They were obtained via the Freedom of Information Act by the Electronic Privacy Information Center of Washington DC. Anyone who owns a computer and is politically active should be aware of the guidelines because they give an insight into the investigative means used to seize computers. We aren't going to discuss the guidelines in detail because they affect such a limited number of our readers, but we think it important that people know the guidelines are available.

Recognizing the sophistication of some computer users, the guidelines suggest obtaining computer experts before computers or data are seized. It states that informants, mail covers and other techniques should be used, before the items are seized, to determine the experts needed. It gives the legal guidelines applicable to searches and search warrants. Including an extensive discussion of consent searches and who can give consent, i.e. spouses, parents, employers, network system administrators, etc. It then goes into the specifics of seizing information, going after networks and bulletin boards, etc. For a copy of the guidelines contact the Bureau of National Affairs at 1 -800-255-813 l, l231 25th St. NW, Washington D.C. 20037 and ask for The Federal Guidelines for Searching and Seizing Computers.

As a digital subscriber to Prison Legal News, you can access full text and downloads for this and other premium content.

Subscribe today

Already a subscriber? Login