Seized Computers Require Special Search Warrant
While our office does not practice in the area of criminal law, a landmark decision was delivered earlier this week by the Supreme Court of Canada in R. v. Vu.
The case involved a BC man who police suspected was diverting electricity from B.C. Hydro for a marijuana growing operation. The police obtained a search warrant, however the search warrant made no mention of computers. The police seized two computers as part of the search in and attempt to prove that Vu Thanh Long lived in the home. The trial judge did not allow the evidence from the computer asserting that the search warrant did not cover searching a personal computer as well.
The case made its way to the Supreme Court of Canada and the court held that the traditional rule of searches could not apply to computers. It was fair game to look in dresser drawers and cabinets however a computer needs to be treated as a separate place from a home. The police may seize a computer but they are not entitled to search the computer until they have a separate and distinct warrant allowing them to do so.