11th Circuit Suggests Limits for Search Warrants of Social Media Accounts

In United States v. Blake, No. 15-13395 (11th Cir. Aug. 21, 2017), the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals recently examined the constitutionality of a search warrant for a defendant’s entire Facebook account. The warrant at issue required Facebook to hand over the full contents of the defendant’s account and then to let law enforcement agents mine the account for evidence of the defendant’s alleged prostitution ring. The court indicated that such a broad warrant–one lacking a time frame or description of the particular data sought–may be insufficiently particular to satisfy the Fourth Amendment.

However, the court ultimately did not have to decide the particularity question, as it determined that law enforcement executed the warrant in good faith, and, therefore, the good faith exception to suppressing evidence applied. Nonetheless, the court stated that, in the future, law enforcement should specifically identify the data they seek, rather then requesting the contents of an entire social media account.

Blake shows the complexities of applying the Fourth Amendment to the modern social media landscape, as well as the importance of having an experienced criminal defense attorney to make creative Fourth Amendment arguments.