Cotterman was a Fourth Amendment case about whether the federal government can seize a laptop at a border checkpoint and copy the contents without a warrant, probable cause, or even reasonable suspicion. Cotterman was convicted based on such a search, and he sought review by the U.S. Supreme Court. CLDEF’s amicus curiae brief, in support of the petitioner, argued that the case should not be analyzed based on non-textual “reasonable expectation of privacy” standards, but instead involved a “general search” absolutely prohibited by the Fourth Amendment. This would be no different than if the government seized a person’s firearms and copied down the serial numbers as part of a general search to see if they were stolen. CLDEF’s effort in this case continues to press for a revitalized Fourth Amendment principle to protect property, not just some watered-down notion of a reasonable expectation of privacy — an expectation which is rapidly shrinking in the digital age.
The Supreme Court denied the petition for certiorari on January 13, 2014.