Adam Thompson of the Wall Street Journal has a report about how Federal prosecutors obtained the names of over 100 MLB players from 2003 who tested positive for steroids and how it might have been a violation of the 4th Amendment as the method of searching may raise some interesting civil liberties issues.
The issue is that Federal agents may not have been authorized to obtain the names of the approximately 100 players when their warrant only specified 10 (still unnamed) players. However, the investigators came across the names on a computer they had permission to search. But how much of it could the Feds search.
"We were authorized specifically by the warrant to search every single file in all of their computers," Assistant U.S. Attorney Erika Frick said. "We took only one directory. We were authorized to search every one of those files."
Courts have often struggled to define which searches and seizures are "unreasonable." For instance, authorities are allowed to seize evidence that lies in plain sight, even in if they lack a warrant. In a less complicated criminal case, the doctrine allows, for example, police with a search warrant for drugs to seize an illegal gun they might see on top of a table.
"Normally we all know agents can look in a closet," says Fordham University criminal law professor Dan Richman. "This is a really big and interesting closet."
The government argues it needed to cast a wide net, gathering large bunches of files to make sure to find all pertinent evidence, not merely believing the labels on files in a computer directory. If during that check prosecutors came across evidence of a crime, they could keep it and use it.
The MLBPA is appealling to the case to a 15-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Previously a 3-judge panel from the Ninth Circuit upheld the legality of the search.
The case is United States v. Comprehensive Drug Testing, Inc. and I would link to the opinion, but it's a 115-page pdf and I think that's about 114 1/2 pages too long for most of us to read. Here's a FindLaw summary.