Motion to Suppress ESI Denied Where An Expectation of Privacy Was Objectively Unreasonable

4 Dec 2019

In United States v. Caputo, No. 3-18-cr-00428-IM (D. Or. Nov. 6, 2019), the Court denied Defendant’s motion to suppress ESI and various emails obtained via a warrant-less search of Defendant’s workplace email account on the grounds that under the military’s computer use policies in effect, “any expectation of privacy in Defendant’s work email was objectively unreasonable.”

Defendant, a member of the Oregon National Guard, was indicted on four counts of wire fraud. During the course of litigation, Defendant filed a motion to suppress emails and various ESI obtained from a warrant-less search of Defendant’s workplace email account. In response, the Government produced facts regarding the context in which it searched Defendant’s email account, including an image of a banner message displayed when Defendant logged onto his work computer system that advised that at any time, the US Government may inspect and seize data stored on the computer system. Additionally, Defendant’s computer use was subject to the Oregon National Guard’s acceptable use policy.

In ruling on the motion, the Court first stated that “Defendant has not offered any evidence that he had a subjective expectation of privacy in his work email” and went on to hold that “any expectation of privacy in Defendant’s work email was objectively unreasonable under the military’s computer-use policies in effect at his workplace.”

Additionally, the Court rejected the applicability of two cases Defendant cited to support his claim of a reasonable expectation of privacy, holding that neither case cited would require suppression given the facts at issue and that “under these circumstances, it was objectively unreasonable for Defendant to expect privacy in his work email.” As such, the motion to suppress was denied.