January 5, 2005 7:44 AM PST

Court: No warrant needed to search your work PC

Police do not need a search warrant to examine an employee's computer for incriminating files, a Washington state appeals court has ruled.

All that is necessary is the permission of the business that owns the computer, the appeals court said in a 3-0 decision last week.

In April 2003, when Jack Leck briefly worked at a nonprofit organization called the World Peace Ambassadors, he allegedly used an office computer to do Web searches for preteen boys and girls and participate in related mailing lists from his Hotmail account. When police showed up with some questions, the nonprofit group permitted that computer to be seized without a warrant.

Leck was charged with 50 counts of possessing child pornography and sentenced to four years in prison. He claimed the Washington State Patrol Crime Lab's seizure and search of the computer without a warrant was illegal because it violated his Fourth Amendment right to privacy.

The appeals court disagreed. The Washington state Supreme Court has authorized warrantless searches as long as the lawful owner of the property gives consent voluntarily, the court noted. "Leck did not share equal authority with (the nonprofit's director) over the WPA office or computer, thus, Leck's consent to the state's search was not necessary," wrote Judge Marywave Van Deren.

The court upheld Leck's conviction and sentence.

5 comments

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wow what a moron
why do people do stupid stuff at work
Posted by volterwd (466 comments )
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What an idiot...
if he's going to do that sick crap on a computer he doesn't own then he's getting what he deserves (not that he doesn't deserve it anyway). If people are going to sensitive, and in this potentially incriminating, information they look into encrypting the files.
Posted by unknown unknown (1951 comments )
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I thought we lived in America....
you remember.. the country based on freedom?
the whole 'innocent 'til proven guilty' thing?


While I agree with you that if he is proven guilty, he is a moron...
BUT, on the OTHER hand... let's say you own a business and the
FBI barged in and wanted to take the computer used by a long
time employee for all your accounting away for 'study', claiming
it had terrorist information on it.. would you just let them take it
w/o a warrant?

We arer closer to a total police state then any of us realize.
Posted by jltnol (85 comments )
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