4th Amendment Case at CAAF: Soldier Gets a New Hearing Because the Army Unlawfully Seized His Laptop Computer

While deployed to Afghanistan, Josh's client secretly recorded videos of members of his unit using the latrine. After other Soldiers in the unit apprehended him, the Army Criminal Investigation Division (CID), seized his cell phone. CID also seized his laptop computer to search for evidence of his alleged crimes.

The issue on appeal was whether the laptop seizure, and subsequent search of the laptop’s contents, was lawful. In a 4-1 opinion, the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces (CAAF) reversed the trial court and Army Court of Criminal Appeals. CAAF found CID lacked probable cause to seize the Soldier’s laptop computer, and suppressed the contents of the laptop. CAAF vacated his guilty plea and convictions, and authorized a rehearing.

Josh handled this case while serving on active duty in the United States Army at the Defense Appellate Division. He wrote the principal brief at CAAF, and also argued the case. This was a huge victory for his client, as CID found evidence on his laptop that led to additional criminal charges unrelated to the secret recording of videos in the latrine in Afghanistan; because they violated his rights by taking the computer in the first place, the Army could no longer use the laptop in a prosecution of him.

Read the CAAF's official opinion here.