WASHINGTON, DC – In a case that could have far-reaching implications with respect to fourth amendment rights, internationally renowned attorney Jeff Ifrah and his legal team have secured a victory against the Department of Justice. With the judgment that the seizure and subsequent search of the defendant’s laptop at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) was unlawful, a strong statement has been sent to the government that this type of intrusion concerning our personal electronic devices without the proper documentation will not be tolerated.
The case stemmed from the seizure of one Jae Shik Kim’s laptop by a Department of Security agent at Los Angeles International airport as Kim prepared to board a plane to Seoul. United States of America vs. Jae Shik Kim, Karham Eng. Corp., Crim. Action No. 13-0100 alleged that the South Korean businessman was involved in a conspiracy to evade U.S. trade restrictions on Iran. However, U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia Federal Judge Amy Berman Jackson granted the motion brought by Kim’s lawyers, David Deitch and Sarah Koch, to suppress on the grounds that the seizure was illegal. As a result of the successful motion by the Ifrah Law attorneys, the government was forced to abandon its case.
The case is an important one due to what it says about citizens’ Fourth Amendment rights. This amendment to the Constitution is part of the Bill of Rights and prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures. Further, it requires any warrant to be judicially sanctioned and supported by probable cause. In this case, it was shown that the government was searching for evidence of a crime committed years earlier and there was no suspicion of current illegal activity. This was deemed to violate Kim’s Fourth Amendment rights. As Sarah Koch explained, “The District Court’s order placed clear limits on the government’s authority to conduct non-routine searches at the border when there is no suspicion of present criminal activity… In this case, the government misused its border search authority to seek evidence of a crime that it believed had been committed years prior. The court’s order confirmed that a warrant is required when the government conducts a non-routine search for evidence of a past crime, even when the search occurs at the border.”
The search itself further exposed the government’s attempt to use their power at our borders to circumvent Kim’s rights. Following the seizure, the entire contents of Mr. Kim’s laptop were copied and kept for an “unlimited duration and an examination of unlimited scope.” With the fact that Kim was allowed to board the plane sans laptop clearly undermining the government’s claim the South Korean might pose a threat to national security on his way to Seoul, this unmitigated search and seizure unquestionably qualified as a fourth amendment violation. As Ifrah and Koch pointed out: “The forensic imaging of Mr. Kim’s computer, which allowed the government to search it for an unlimited duration using specialized software, set this far outside the bounds of a routine border search in which there is no reasonable suspicion of current or imminent illegal activity.” In essence, the case proved that a laptop differs greatly from a physical container that can be searched at the border without a warrant. “Judge Jackson essentially said that a laptop is not a purse,” Ifrah explained. “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 an internationally recognized white-collar criminal defense lawyer and litigator. He is particularly well known for his work successfully representing companies and individuals involved in Internet businesses. With beginnings in the U.S. Army’s Judge Advocate General’s Corps, he later gained invaluable experience as a special assistant U.S. attorney in the U.S. Attorney’s office in New Jersey. After holding the positions of counsel to the global law firm Paul Hastings and shareholder in the litigation department of another global firm, Greenberg Traurig, he went on to launch Ifrah Law in 2009. He has successfully defended some of the most well known businesses in the country in cases involving criminal and civil antitrust laws, securities laws and the Civil False Claims Act. Recognized for five years in a row as one of America’s leading White Collar Crime and Government Investigations lawyers, he was also named a leading attorney in the area of Gaming & Licensing. Further, he is also very active in the publishing arena and his works are recognized as those of a leading national authority in a number of areas.