OR: Search of browser history limited to the PC, and here it was one day

Police received a call that defendant’s infant son had died at home. In his interview with the police, defendant admitted a computer search about it. The police got a search warrant for his computer search history. The probable cause here was tied to the one day’s search history, and the police looking at his entire search history was unreasonable under the state constitution. With digital searches, it is easy for a digital search to become a general search, and this search should have been limited to only the one day’s browser history. State v. Mansor, 363 Ore. 185, 2018 Ore. LEXIS 522 (June 29, 2018) (Note: This is based on the Oregon Constitution which reads identical to the Fourth Amendment. This case could have application far beyond Oregon.):

For the reasons discussed below, we conclude that the application of Article I, section 9, to warranted searches of personal electronic devices requires a test that protects an individual’s right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures while also recognizing the government’s lawful authority to obtain evidence in criminal investigations, including through searches of digital data. A warrant to search a computer or other digital device for information related to a crime must be based on probable cause to believe that such information will be found on the device. To satisfy the particularity requirement of Article I, section 9, the warrant must identify, as specifically as reasonably possible in the circumstances, the information to be searched for, including, if available and relevant, the time period during which the information was created, accessed, or otherwise used. We acknowledge that, for practical reasons, searches of computers are often comprehensive and therefore are likely to uncover information that goes beyond the probable cause basis for the warrant. In light of that fact, to protect the right to privacy and to avoid permitting the digital equivalent of general warrants, we also hold that Article I, section 9, prevents the state from using evidence found in a computer search unless a valid warrant authorized the search for that particular evidence, or it is admissible under an exception to the warrant requirement.

In this case, police had probable cause to believe that defendant’s computer would contain information regarding defendant’s internet searches shortly before his 9-1-1 call. We refer to that information as “the June 12 internet search history.” Defendant moved to suppress all of the information found through the forensic examination of the computer, which, as noted, included the evidence of child abuse and other crimes dating from weeks and months before the 9-1-1 call, as well as the June 12 internet search history. The trial court found that the police lacked probable cause to search the computer for any information beyond the June 12 internet search history. Nevertheless, the trial court denied defendant’s motion to suppress, and virtually all of the relevant forensic evidence was admitted at trial. That was error. In our view, the warrant was sufficiently particular to permit a search of the computer; however, the trial court erred in admitting the proffered evidence that was obtained as a result of the forensic examination, because, as we read the warrant, it authorized the police to search only for the June 12 internet search history. Accordingly, we conclude that defendant’s motion to suppress should have been granted in part and denied in part. Because that error was not harmless, we affirm the Court of Appeals’ decision reversing defendant’s convictions and remand the case to the trial court.

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