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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 Just Tom on 1/24/2012 2:44:49 PM , Rating: 2
That, too, is illegal. They can't incarcerate you indefinitely until you give them what they want, they would have to levy multiple contempt orders against you

Not quite. Read up on H. Beatty Chadwick, who was imprisoned for 14 years on a single count of contempt of court. There are very few rules on judicial use of contempt of court, and in civil contempt cases - basically any attempt to coerce a witness to cooperate - there is no need for criminal trial. Judges have incredible leeway here.

RE: Send the wrong message?
By jonmcc33 on 1/24/2012 5:01:08 PM , Rating: 2
Wow. What an injustice. More and more I'm encouraged to leave for Canada.

RE: Send the wrong message?
By mcnabney on 1/24/2012 10:03:58 PM , Rating: 3
Hey doofus, the Canadian government has more power than the US government. Canadians only have a right to silence.

And you better not go to Europe. Some of those nations don't even provide an assumption of innocence.

RE: Send the wrong message?
By myhipsi on 1/25/2012 10:10:17 AM , Rating: 2
The right to silence, which includes the right to not be compelled to be a witness against ones self. It is effectively identical to the 5th amendment in the U.S.

RE: Send the wrong message?
By YashBudini on 1/25/2012 2:20:48 PM , Rating: 1
She's guilty of hindering prosecution. People who have been silent that aided and abetted criminals have also broken the law. They already have the contents ergo the evidence, they're simple demanding for interpretation of what they have.

"When an individual makes a copy of a song for himself, I suppose we can say he stole a song." -- Sony BMG attorney Jennifer Pariser

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