97 Ky. L.J. 721 (2008-2009)
Apparent Authority in Computer Searches: Sidestepping the Fourth Amendment

handle is hein.journals/kentlj97 and id is 729 raw text is: Apparent Authority in Computer Searches:
Sidestepping the Fourth Amendment
John-Robert Skrabanek'
INTRODUCTION
N an era in which information storage is increasingly digitized, the
computer password is king. As we undergo a massive transition away
from paper records, more than anything else it is the password that will
protect our most private files. This statement holds true for all types of
data, from harmless personal digital photos to important state security
documents. However, in contrast to the brick and mortar world, passwords
in the digital context do not manifest themselves in tangible ways. For
example, unlike a visible combination lock on a suitcase, frequently police
may never know if a computer is password protected unless they make the
effort to search for such protection. Should the legal standards that govern
searches in this context be any different from those in a non-computer
context? For a narrow subset of third-party consent searches, the answer
is yes. Currently, the standards that control third-party consent searches in
the area of digital storage are not adequate to protect the individual against
unnecessary governmental intrusion.
This Note examines the search and seizure doctrine of apparent
authority as applied to computer hard drives. Part I introduces the
background and history of apparent authority in the brick and mortar
world. Part II examines how the doctrine has narrowed over time to suit
items that society considers especially private. Part III scrutinizes the
current jurisprudence of apparent authority in the computer context, noting
that authorities have frequently ignored or warped the proper inquiry that
should be made in various situations. Part III also proposes that when
searching hard drives, additional inquiries must be made by law enforcement
officials before courts should allow these searches to pass constitutional
scrutiny. Finally, Part IV offers other special considerations and issues
regarding apparent authority in the context of computer searches.
i B.A., 2005, Political Science, University of Kentucky; J.D. expected May 2009,
University of Kentucky College of Law.

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