Online journalists are freaking out that California police appear to have ignored California’s shield law when breaking into Gizmodo editor Jason Chen’s house and seizing his computers in connection with the iPhone probe.
Gawker Media LLC, meanwhile, is arguing that CA police violated the shield law and is demanding immediate return of the confiscated property.
And if, indeed, the police broke into Chen’s house to determine the identity of the Gizmodo source who provided the possibly stolen iPhone, it would appear that the police trampled all over the shield law.
The search warrant is ambiguous about the specific reason the police gave for the search and seizure. Specifically, it’s possible–likely, even–that the police believe Gawker Media committed the felony by acquiring the iPhone (“buying stolen property”).
If that’s the “probable cause” the police used to obtain the warrant, the journalist shield law may not apply.
* It was used as the means of committing a felony
* It tends to show that a felony has been committed or that a particular person committed a felony
So now the question is… Was the suspected “felony” the THEFT of the iPhone (in which case police want to find out the identity of the thief)? Or was it BUYING STOLEN PROPERTY (in which case Gawker Media and/or Jason Chen may soon be accused of felonies?)
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