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is-a-password-protected-computer-like-a-locked-box

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A recent Cirtcut Court decision found them to be so:

The 10th Circuit's recent 2-1 decision in U.S. v. Andrus, No. 06-3094 (April 25, 2007), recognized for the first time that a password-protected computer is like a locked suitcase or a padlocked footlocker in a bedroom. The digital locks raise the expectation of privacy by the owner. The majority nonetheless refused to suppress the evidence.
In the case in question, the father of the suspect gave the officers permission to search the house and his son's computer. The test for the majority was pretty high:
Judge Michael R. Murphy, joined by the court's newest member, Judge Neil M. Gorsuch, said the legal test is "whether law enforcement knows or should reasonably suspect because of surrounding circumstances that the computer is password protected."
While the dissenting judge pointed out that it might be hard to determine if a computer is password protected:
In dissent, Judge Monroe G. McKay called the unconstrained ability of law enforcement to use forensic software to bypass password protection without first determining whether such passwords have been enabled amounts to "dangerously sidestepping the Fourth Amendment."

"The fact that a computer password 'lock' may not be immediately visible does not render it unlocked," McKay wrote.
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