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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 dragonbif on 1/24/2012 12:30:05 PM , Rating: 3
It is not really illegal per say. If you are held in contempt for a reason they can hold you until you are no longer in contempt. Say you keep disrupting the court proceeding, the judge can send you back to lock up and bring you back the next day. If you keep doing it your case will not get anywhere and you spend most of your time in county.

For the laptop most states now consider digital files the same as physical files. For example in the past if you have a safe with possible evidence in it the court can order you to open it. If you refused or say you forgot they could hold you in contempt. Some consider an encrypted hard drive to the same. However it is true they do not want to send you to county jail for the rest of your life so they would give you an offer after a year or 2. They would let you plead guilty and give you your sentence accordingly. And may consider time spent.

One of the purposes of the 5th is so the court cannot put you in a position where you have to break the law. It is considered a crime to lie under oath and if they put the person on trial on the stand they would have to lie to protect themselves. Unlocking a safe, opening a door, or decrypting a hard drive is not considered self-incrimination but allowing access to possible evidence.

This is not the first time this has come up and it won't be the last. It has come up many times from everything from fraud to child porn cases.

I'm not saying I agree with it I am just saying how it currently is. I would hate for child porn people to be able to get away with it just because of bitlocker =(

By the way people have sued for holding someone in contempt but the judge can toss out the case if they cant prove/show the possiblility it was not done legally at the get go. Not all lawsuits have their day in court.


RE: Send the wrong message?
By Hieyeck on 1/24/2012 1:44:42 PM , Rating: 2
IANAL, but wouldn't the statute of limitations apply here as well? If they can't prove your guilt within X time, they MUST let you go (barring crimes already exempt from the statute).


RE: Send the wrong message?
By dragonbif on 1/25/2012 12:49:02 PM , Rating: 2
Nope the statute of limitations would not apply because she has been charged, they just need more data. Contempt is a crime and so you can get stent back to jail until you comply. They cannot send you to the state prison they have to keep you local (close to the court house). The reason is they have to review it every so often. So as long as the judge does not dismiss the case it is your fault the case is not proceeding and not the states.

The statute of limitations has more to do with charging someone within a certain amount of time.


RE: Send the wrong message?
By Schrag4 on 1/24/2012 1:53:50 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
It is not really illegal per say. If you are held in contempt for a reason they can hold you until you are no longer in contempt. Say you keep disrupting the court proceeding, the judge can send you back to lock up and bring you back the next day. If you keep doing it your case will not get anywhere and you spend most of your time in county.


Are you saying they would bring you back day after day, indefinitely? I really doubt that, but to be honest I don't know. Anyone have some insight?

quote:
I'm not saying I agree with it I am just saying how it currently is. I would hate for child porn people to be able to get away with it just because of bitlocker =(


We all would hate for criminals to go free. But some of us would hate EVEN MORE for the state to have the power to make sure everyone they prosecute is convicted, whether they're guilty or not. Just like we'd all hate for another terrorist to hijack a plane in the US, but I think most of us would be willing to take the risk if it means our kids won't be groped by TSA employees.


“Then they pop up and say ‘Hello, surprise! Give us your money or we will shut you down!' Screw them. Seriously, screw them. You can quote me on that.” -- Newegg Chief Legal Officer Lee Cheng referencing patent trolls














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