Colorado Woman Ordered to Decrypt Laptop to Reveal Incriminating Evidence

Paul Lilly

Colorado U.S. District Judge Robert Blackburn has ordered a woman to decrypt her laptop so that prosecutors can pluck information from her notebook and use that information against her as part of a criminal case involving alleged bank fraud. The woman sought protection under the Fifth Amendment but was denied her request in what's shaping up to be a highly interesting case on a number of levels.

"I find and conclude that the Fifth Amendment is not implicated by requiring production of the unencrypted contents of the Toshiba Satellite M305 laptop computer.," the judge wrote in his decision, according to Wired .

There was quite a bit of explanation that led to his conclusion, all of which Wired is hosting in a PDF. The takeaway is that a court has ruled the Fifth Amendment doesn't always apply to encrypted computers, and in this case, the judge stated it could "require significant resources and may harm the subject computer" if authorities tried to decrypt the laptop on their own.

"I hope to get a stay of execution of this order so we can file an appeal to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals," Fricosu's attorney, Phil Dubois, said in a statement, according to CNet . "I think it's a matter of national importance. It should not be treated as though it's just another day in Fourth Amendment litigation."

This isn't the first time a person has tried to invoke the Fifth Amendment to avoid decrypting potentially incriminating files. One of the more high profile cases involves Sebastien Boucher, who was accused of hiding child porn on his Alienware laptop when border agents seized it. He was denied his request and eventually complied with the order to decrypt his notebook.

Part of what makes all this interesting is that no similar cases have yet made it to the Supreme Court.

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