Today there was a big decision (both metaphorically and literally – the decision runs 104-pages) from the Second Circuit in United States v. Ganias about search warrants in an age of digital data. In Ganias, the government seized and made identical copies of three hard drives that belonged to an accountant, Stavros Ganias, pursuant to a warrant (the “2003 warrant”) in a fraud investigation. The government continued to hold the files, even after reviewing them for all relevant information contained in the 2003 warrant. In 2006, the government obtained a second warrant (the “2006 warrant”) as part of an IRS tax evasion investigation and they searched the files anew pursuant to that second warrant.
There were two questions presented:
- Whether the fourth amendment was violated when, pursuant to a warrant, the government seized and cloned three computer hard drives containing both responsive and non-responsive files, retained the cloned hard