Colorado Woman Ordered to Decrypt Laptop in Bank Fraud Case
January 24, 2012 9:40 AM
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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.
This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled
1/24/2012 11:39:27 AM
The common denominator here is, IF there is hard evidence you did something, and there is evidence you are trying to hide it, you can't.
IF she had committed this crime and kept everything in her head and not in the computer, the judge couldn't get her to admit to it because of the 5th.
But in reality she decided to bury her skeletons in her computer behind a locked door. It would be fine if there was no evidence linking the computer to her crimes.
I'm assuming there was evidence proving her computer was used in her crimes. Similar to saying if your house was used to smuggle illegal aliens and they had proof, they could raid your house with a court order.
So in the end,
No, the 5th doesn't protect you from your own stupidity for keeping a diary of your crimes in handwriting that isn't legible, and it definitely doesn't protect you from being proven guilty by such evidence.
RE: 5th ammendment
1/24/2012 5:12:22 PM
Most likely then not they do not know if the laptop contains evidence or not, they are just hoping to get more evidence by checking her files on the computer. Basically their case won't stand on it's own ATM so they are hoping for more evidence. If they did keep files and evidence of their crime on the computer then they can use it BUT, they should not require them to hand them that evidence to them. The DA should be the one opening the laptop and getting the evidence not asking her to give them the evidence they need since that is self-incrimination and against the 5th :)
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