DOJ offers guidance on electronic evidence
- By Bryant Jordan
- Jan 18, 2001
The Justice Department guidance on obtaining electronic evidence
The Justice Department has released a manual that guides local and state
law enforcement agencies on searching and seizing electronic evidence.
But the guide, drafted
by the Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section of the department's
criminal division, offers "assistance, not authority."
"Its analysis and conclusions reflect current thinking on difficult
areas of law, and do not represent the official position of the Department
of Justice or any other agency," the department stated in its preface to
the manual. "It has no regulatory effect and confers no rights or remedies."
Nevertheless, everyone should read the manual, according to James Robinson,
assistant attorney general in the criminal division.
"The guidebook is important not only for law enforcement agents and
prosecutors but also for any American who uses a computer," he said. "Electronic
privacy is important to us all, and the department wants everyone to know
what their rights are."
The manual outlines how electronic surveillance laws apply to the Internet
and how courts have applied the Fourth Amendment to computers and electronic
communication. That amendment guarantees the rights of people against unreasonable
search and seizure.
The guide is not the first: An earlier version was released in 1994,
with supplements in 1997 and 1999. But officials believed that changes in
law and the expansion of the Internet warranted an entirely fresh look at
the search and seizure of electronic evidence.