Because of an increasing concern of drug crimes being facilitated through the internet, the workplace computer can become a prime target for a law enforcement search. When making a workplace search, the legal issues can become complicated because the defendant does not have ownership of the property and many places at work are not considered ‘private’. This means that the police may be able to search your workplace without a warrant to obtain incriminating evidence.
Legal Workplace Searches
Work place searches should be carefully thought out by law enforcement before they begin. Usually, permission by someone in authority will allow the police to search any place at work including computers. In most situations, employers have authority over these places and can investigate them on their own whenever they want. Therefore the employee should not be able to expect privacy.
However, there are certain places where an employee should be able to expect privacy. Email, lockers and other private places are not accessible to others and are protect by privacy laws. If searches are performed in these locations without a warrant,
In public sector employment, many other workers will have access to the workplace that is being searched. If this is the case, then the defendant cannot reasonably expect privacy. Since other people have access, the police can make a search without violating anyone’s rights. Employers may also make searches of these areas without a rights violation.
Special rules apply in government workplaces that give almost no privacy to any employees. Often computers and other areas will have special warnings which inform the worker that the user does not have any right to privacy on that computer or computer network. For computers, this is usually shown as an electronic notice.
There are a few conditions where a defendant’s privacy can be defended in a government place; however, in many situations the police can make a search without a warrant. Government employers are also able to make searches of government workplaces without any kind of documentation, provided that they are looking for criminal evidence.
Problems with Workplace Searches
Since the rules are more complex, applying them can get complicated in court. In real life situations, searches are not always made in simple ways. For example, a law enforcement officer may ask an employer to search their employees workplace to find evidence of a work-related crime. In a situation like this, it is harder to tell what evidence should be admitted in court. The criminal lawyer must use their intuition and experience to convince the courts that important evidence should be suppressed to uphold the rights of the defendant.