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Colorado U.S. District Judge Robert Blackburn said the Fifth Amendment does not protect her from the order

A Colorado woman was told to decrypt her laptop in court on Monday in order to aid prosecutors in her bank fraud case.

Ramona Fricosu, the defendant who was accused of bank fraud in 2010, had her laptop seized by authorities during the investigation. However, authorities stumbled upon a big problem while attempting to search her hard drive -- it was encrypted.

Full disk encryption, which prevents unauthorized access to data storage, is an option found in operating systems like Mac OS and Windows. The encryption can take decades to break, and if authorities tried to crack it, it could damage the computer.

That's why Colorado U.S. District Judge Robert Blackburn ordered that Fricosu decrypt her hard drive and return it to the court so prosecutors can use her files against her in the bank fraud case.

Fricosu used the Fifth Amendment to protect herself. She argued that the Fifth Amendment protects her from compelled self-incrimination, and that the judge's order violates this. However, Blackburn didn't agree.

"I conclude that the Fifth Amendment is not implicated by requiring production of unencrypted contents of the Toshiba Satellite M305 laptop computer," said Blackburn.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Patricia Davies backed Blackburn's order, saying that allowing encrypted content to defeat authorities would send the wrong message to other criminals. In her words exactly, it would be a "concession to her [Fricosu] and potential criminals (be it in child exploitation, national security, terrorism, financial crimes or drug trafficking cases) that encrypting all inculpatory digital evidence will serve to defeat the efforts of law enforcement officers to obtain such evidence through judicially authorized search warrants, and thus make their prosecution impossible."

Blackburn has ordered Fricosu to return the unencrypted hard drive by February 21. Civil rights groups are keeping a close eye on the case.

Sources: Wired, Fox News



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RE: Send the wrong message?
By mattclary on 1/24/2012 10:38:30 AM , Rating: 5
I am a huge advocate of privacy and limiting government's reach, but... She is not being asked to testify about herself, she is being compelled to provide evidence.

Think about it this way, if the cops have a search warrant for your house, you can not use the 5th amendment to protect the bodies in your cellar from incriminating you.


RE: Send the wrong message?
By Ticholo on 1/24/2012 11:11:46 AM , Rating: 2
But the warrant can't force you to dig the bodies up and display them in your porch. If the officers find them, yay for them. If not, you're free to kill again.


RE: Send the wrong message?
By MrBlastman on 1/24/2012 11:57:14 AM , Rating: 2
Well, not quite. They can still take you to trial on circumstantial evidence and if a jury is dense enough to convict you on those grounds you can still go to jail. The dilemma for yourself and those entombed bodies is--do they have enough evidence without them to get a conviction?


RE: Send the wrong message?
By jonmcc33 on 1/24/2012 1:17:15 PM , Rating: 2
Unless your name is Casey Anthony.


RE: Send the wrong message?
By YashBudini on 1/25/2012 2:37:06 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
But the warrant can't force you to dig the bodies up and display them in your porch. If the officers find them, yay for them. If not, you're free to kill again.


The police have found them, they're simply asking for the key to the vault. If no evidence is present she goes free.


RE: Send the wrong message?
By Etsp on 1/24/2012 11:13:41 AM , Rating: 2
This is more akin to a Judge ordering someone to act as a tour guide and point out exactly where the bodies are (in your example), or hold them in contempt of court until they do.

The authorities are allowed to search for them on their own (with a warrant and due process), that has nothing to do with the fifth amendment. They are more than welcome to attempt to decrypt the hard-drive themselves.

The fifth amendment is about not being forced to do something that could incriminate you to the crime you are accused of, through speech or other means. Providing the password to decrypt a hard-drive falls under this protection.


RE: Send the wrong message?
By mattclary on 1/24/2012 2:46:09 PM , Rating: 2
Just as providing them a key to your house would do the same.


RE: Send the wrong message?
By Reclaimer77 on 1/24/2012 6:04:08 PM , Rating: 1
quote:
She is not being asked to testify about herself, she is being compelled to provide evidence.


Were you in the Nazi SS or something? Maybe you should read the Fifth Amendment again. Oh sorry did I say again? Nevermind, I mean just go read it for the first time. You can't be forced to provide evidence that is going to be used against you. It's Unconstitutional, and the judge is wrong. This should go all the way to the Supreme Court where it will be overturned. It's a terrible decision that could lead to a horrible legal precedence.

You know as a Conservative I can't believe I'm hearing myself say this, but I'm honestly getting really tired of all these lower courts totally fucking up and making bad decisions like this, that end up having to be heard by the Supreme Court and corrected 10+ years later.


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