The Fourth Amendment protects Americans against unlawful searches, and a recent case being brought against a New York financier has shined a light on the issues with search warrants in fraud cases. As Forbes reports, a judge recently slammed the FBI for violating the financier’s constitutional rights with their overly broad search warrant.
After a raid of his office in January 2012, in which 24 electronic devices were seized and 4,500 pages of documents taken, a New York man was accused of manipulating the trading of stock he was responsible for listing on the NASDAQ. An indictment for securities fraud came in September 2015, in which the government held that he had made too much money through listing small Chinese companies on the exchange. The man strenuously denied any wrong-doing. As the investigation progressed, his lawyers brought a motion that evidence was obtained through an illegal search, and a hearing was held on this matter in January 2017. His lawyer stated that the “General Warrant” used to raid the financier’s office was too broad.
According to the New York Times, the judge rules against the government, claiming that the January 2012 raid was overly broad, and thus none of the evidence collected can be used against the man. In fact, the FBI agents seized materials that the judge deemed especially out of the scope of the case, including prescriptions for medicine and school records for the man’s children, which were kept from the man and his family for years. Although a trial is still set for this coming October, many believe the prosecution has no other evidence against the man.
The judge’s order shows that broad and aggressive searches are often a problem, especially in fraud cases where prosecutors believe any business documents could help them to understand the crime. However, 90 percent of these cases end with a plea agreement, so often these search warrants are not subject to judicial scrutiny.