A recent appeal presented an issue to the Fourth Circuit Court of the United States due to accessing a website link that does not disclose the corresponding website link provides proper probable cause to search the residence.
According to appellant Nikolai Bosyk, his previous conviction relied on a search warrant that may be invalid due to several arguments.
The key arguments
The appeal focused on Nikolai Bosyk’s previous conviction and the ability to suppress the search warrant based on:
· An unsupported probable cause in the warrant
· A significant time gap between access of the link and the obtained warrant
· A misleading affidavit because of the probable cause
Bosyk’s attorneys specified the affidavit and warrant relied on “one click of the mouse.” The warrant was based on a single click from the defendant’s home on a specific URL located on a secret messaging board in November 2015. The URL did not disclose what exactly the link leads to.
According to Bosyk’s defense, “the mere association of an IP address with access or an attempt to access a particular URL alone does not amount to probable cause to search an individual’s home or digital devices because of the limited probative inferences that can be drawn from a single click.”
The final decision
While the argument held value, the Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court’s decision to deny the defendant’s motion to suppress the evidence obtained in the warrant.
In the court’s decision, they addressed concerns surrounding the “single-click” argument and found the specific circumstances of this click suggested the person behind the click plausibly knew about and sought out that specific content – which meant that the warrant was also valid despite the five-month gap between the events and the filing of the warrant.
Since the warrant is acceptable, there was no reason for the court to side with the defendant and suppress the evidence found during the warrant and its search. However, the appeal discusses exciting implications for future cases surrounding link clicks and the possibility of shifting what constitutes a probable cause in the digital world.