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Search and Seizure — search warrants — general warrants — emails

Wisconsin Court of Appeals


Search and Seizure — search warrants — general warrants — emails

A search warrant seeking all of a suspect’s emails for a nearly-two-year period is not an unconstitutional general warrant.

“The Fourth Amendment parameters of search and seizure law, largely developed in the context of obtaining tangible evidence, are not necessarily inapplicable to all searches for and seizures of electronic information. For example, a search warrant for a filing cabinet, located in a particular place, which contains a year’s worth of correspondence between, or relating to, two particular individuals, would normally be searched where the filing cabinet is located by the officers executing the warrant. Likewise, many documents in that filing cabinet would have nothing to do with either of those individuals. The only way the officer could distinguish between what relates to either of those individuals and what does not, is to look through all of the documents in the filing cabinet. Law enforcement officers have long had to separate the documents as to which seizure was authorized from the other documents. So far, as we have been able to discover, that necessity has not turned an otherwise valid warrant into a “general” warrant. We see no constitutional imperative that would change the result simply because the object of the search is electronic data from a specific electronic file, for a reasonably specific period of time, in the custody of a specific ISP.”


Recommended for publication in the official reports.

2013AP362-CR State v. Rindfleisch

Dist. I, Milwaukee County, Hansher, J., Kessler, J.

Attorneys: For Appellant: Gimbel, Franklyn M., Milwaukee; Keppel, Kathryn A., Milwaukee; For Respondent: Loebel, Karen A., Milwaukee; Wren, Christopher G., Madison

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