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Overbroad search warrants – Fairfax criminal lawyer on challenging them

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Search warrants can get overbroad, particularly as they relate to computer data, which can involve millions of pieces of information. As a Fairfax criminal lawyer, I know the importance of challenging such warrants.

Hard drive photo -- Search warrant issues

Dreamhost successfully challenged an overbroad search warrant related to prosecutions against inauguration day protestors

Inauguration day 2017 in Washington, D.C., saw a mix of supporters of Donald Trump, curiosity seekers, and anti-Trump demonstrators ranging from the peaceful and law abiding to the violent and property damaging. By contrast, the next day’s heavily attended Million Women’s March that I joined with my son was a model of protesting that was at once very peaceful and very effective in getting out messages of organization and empowerment during the four dark years of Trump’s presidency.

The District of Columbia police tracked down a website DisruptJ20.org that allegedly was connected with purportedly unlawful anti-Trump inauguration day protesting, and determined that Dreamhost.com was the website host for DisruptJ20.0rg.

In August 2017, the District of Columbia police filed this search warrant affidavit and convinced a Superior Court judge to sign off on the accompanying draft search warrant.

Praised be Dreamhost for standing up to the search warrant

A moment of truth with a website’s website host is to see whether the sitehost will stand up to search warrants or not concerning the sitehost’s customers and their customers’ website visitors. Here, Dreamost stood up to the search warrant, and successfully convinced chief judge Robert Morin (before whom I have appeared numerous times) to narrow down the procedure in executing the search warrant, to reduce the risk of uncovering personal information about people who were acting in a perfectly law abiding manner, whether they were but observers or demonstrators lawfully exercising their First Amendment free expression rights.

Not all website hosts will stand up to government search warrants

Not all website hosts will stand up to government search warrants. Fortunately, Dreamhost did so in this instance.

The Constitution’s Fourth Amendment provides that a search warrant must be based on probable cause to believe that evidence of criminal activity will be found through the search, and should not be overbroad so that innocent people are caught up in the process of searching otherwise private information.

Fairfax criminal lawyer/ Virginia DUI attorney Jon Katz has been successfully defending thousands of clients since 1991. For a confidential consultation with Jon about your case, please call his staff at 703-383-1100.