Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Tech and the law - 3

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizure shall not be violated, and no warrant shall issue but upon probable cause, to be determined by the judge after examination under oath or affirmation of the complainant and the witnesses he may produce, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized." (Sec. 1. Art. III, Constitution of the Philippines.)
1.       Particularity of description of place to be searched and things to be seized
The Constitution further requires that the search warrant particularly describe the place to be searched and the things to be seized. In Uy Kheytin vs Villareal, the Supreme Court explained the purpose of this requirement thus:
“The evident purpose and intent of this requirement is to limit the things to be seized to those, and only those, particularly described in the search warrant – to leave the officers of the law with no discretion regarding what articles they shall seize, to the end that unreasonable searches and seizures may not be made – that abuses may not be committed.”

A search warrant may be said particularly describe the things to be seized when the description therein is as specific as the circumstances will ordinarily allow (People vs Rubio) or when the description expresses a conclusion of fact – not of law by which the warrant officer may be guided in making the search and seizure (dissent of Abad Santos) or when the things described are limited to those which bear direct relation to the offense for which the warrant is being issued. If the articles designed to be seized have any direct relation to an offense committed, the applicant must necessarily have some evidence other that those articles, to prove the said offense; and the articles subject of search and seizure should come in handy merely to strengthen such evidence.

PLAIN VIEW DOCTRINE - Objects falling in plain view of an officer who has a right to be in the position to have that view are subject to seizure even without a search warrant and maybe introduced in evidence. The doctrine applies when the following requisites concur: (a) the law enforcement officer in search of the evidence has a prior justification for an intrusion or is in a position from which he can view a particular area; (b) the discovery of the evidence in plain view is inadvertent; (c) it is immediately apparent to the officer that the item he observes may be evidence of a crime, contraband or otherwise subject to seizure.

If the contents of the laptop are in relation to the crime committed or in any way related to a crime that will be committed, further on crimes that involve national security and public safety, then plain view doctrine can be applied. Hence, it may be seized. The privacy of correspondence is not violated.

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