In This Chapter
Obtaining the proper authority
Covering all your bases
Putting your case together
You can get yourself into serious trouble or mess up an investigation if you bulldoze over the rules for search and seizure of e-evidence. You've seen crime movies where the dedicated detective — such as Dirty Harry or Andy Sipowicz from NYPD Blue — finds convincing incriminating evidence, only to have it tossed out because he didn't have the authority to make the search in the first place. That news is painful. You want to avoid the frustration of letting criminals go free because of a technicality surrounding your search. Worse, you can get into legal hot water if you throw away the rulebook and are found guilty of misconduct. Wrongdoers know how to manipulate the justice system, but you don't get that option.
Standing between you and the devices or information you want to search and seize is the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. It states that people have the right to "be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures."
The Fourth also says that search warrants must be approved by judges. A judge's approval depends on probable cause, which means that you're not on a fishing expedition for evidence. However, exceptions to the warrant requirement exist, such as consent to search, the plain view doctrine, and exigent circumstances.
In this chapter, you find out the rules about authority, ...