Search & seizure

Here’s a case from New Jersey of some interest, Stengart v. Loving Care Agency, Inc., 2010 N.J. LEXIS 241 (March 30, 2010).

[W]e find that Stengart had a reasonable expectation of privacy in the e-mails she exchanged with her attorney on Loving Care’s laptop.

Stengart plainly took steps to protect the privacy of those e-mails and shield them from her employer. She used a personal, password-protected e-mail account instead of her company e-mail address and did not save the account’s password on her computer. In other words, she had a subjective expectation of privacy in messages to and from her lawyer discussing the subject of a future lawsuit.

In light of the language of the Policy and the attorney-client nature of the communications, her expectation of privacy was also objectively reasonable. As noted earlier, the Policy does not address the use of personal, web-based e-mail accounts accessed through company equipment. It does not address personal accounts at all. Nor does it warn employees that the contents of e-mails sent via personal accounts can be forensically retrieved and read by the company. Indeed, in acknowledging that occasional personal use of e-mail is permitted, the Policy created doubt about whether those e-mails are company or private property.

Here is a case from Massachusetts of some interest, Commonwealth v. Williams, 2010 Mass. App. LEXIS 384 (March 31, 2010).

Seizure of defendant’s clothing from a hospital ER was without exigent circumstances and violated his expectation of privacy. “Nor does the record reflect that obtaining a warrant before the police seized the clothes was impracticable. The detective’s generic testimony that ‘sooner [is] better’ is insufficient to establish the exigency.”

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