WASHINGTON, DC – When Jae Shik Kim prepared to board his plane at Los Angeles International Airport in October 2012, a Department of Homeland Security agent seized his laptop to search for information on which to charge the South Korean businessman with conspiracy to evade U.S. trade restrictions on Iran. The subsequent case, United States of America vs. Jae Shik Kim, Karham Eng. Corp., Crim. Action No. 13-0100, was brought to an end by Federal Judge, Amy Berman Jackson, of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, who granted Mr. Kim’s motion to suppress evidence and ruled that the seizure of his laptop was illegal. Kim was represented by David Deitch and Sarah Koch of Ifrah Law, a Washington, DC- based law firm founded by internationally acclaimed attorney, Jeff Ifrah, who argued that the “border search” posed a violation of Kim’s Fourth Amendment rights, which protect personal privacy against unreasonable searches and seizures.
Judge Jackson supported the argument made by the Ifrah legal team that a laptop was not merely a “container” that could be searched at the border without a warrant. Deitch and Koch reasoned that the incident was an attempt to collect evidence for a pre-existing investigation, rather than to confiscate contraband or identify information that posed an ongoing threat at the border. The fact that the entire contents of Mr. Kim’s laptop were copied and kept for an “unlimited duration and an examination of unlimited scope” constituted a clear breach of the Fourth Amendment. The Judge agreed and pointed out that the computer was not even opened at the airport, but was rather brought to San Diego to be examined while Kim was permitted to board the plane, undermining the government’s claim the South Korean might pose a threat to national security on his way to Seoul.
“Cases evolving around data saved on electronic devices pose a unique challenge, because laws that were written more than 200 years ago have to be adjusted and applied to modern technologies,” comments Ifrah on the precedent-setting case. This is especially true for privacy rights, which could be seen in another recent case, Riley v. California, where the Supreme Court unanimously decided that a warrant is needed for the police to examine the cellphone of an arrested individual, since the content of such a device revealed much more personal information than could be found during a traditional weapons search. “The underlying principle of these two cases is basically the same,” believes Jeff Ifrah. “Judge Jackson essentially said that a laptop is not a purse. It is one thing to look through the items somebody carries in a handbag, but modern electronic gadgets contain vast amounts of personal data, metadata, and even deleted data that clearly require a well founded reason and a warrant to be searched by government officers.”
Jeff Ifrah is a renowned attorney with more than two decades of experience in civil litigation and criminal law and known for his passionate and thorough defense of individual clients as well as organizations. Starting his career as a trial lawyer in the U.S. Army’s Judge Advocate General’s Corps, Ifrah consecutively served as a special assistant U.S. attorney in the U.S. Attorney’s office in New Jersey, followed by a tenure at two leading global law firms, Paul Hastings and Greenberg Traurig, before launching his own law firm in 2009. Today, Ifrah has a reputation as a formidable advocate who has received numerous recognitions, most recently a listing as nationwide leader in Gaming & Licensing (2015) and White Collar Crime and Government Investigations (2011 – 2015) by Chambers USA and an award as Local Litigation Star by Benchmark Litigation.