Top court to hear arguments over search and seizure of computers, cellphones

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VANCOUVER - The Supreme Court of Canada will hear arguments today about whether police have the right to seize and search personal computers and cellphones under a search warrant for documents.

The case focuses on a search warrant police obtained for a home in the Fraser Valley community of Langley, B.C., where it was suspected hydro power was being stolen.

Police found marijuana growing in the basement, and their examination of two laptop computers and a cellphone seized at the property led to the arrest of Thanh Long Vu.

But the trial judge ruled evidence obtained from the search of a laptop and the cellphone was inadmissible because it violated the charter rights of the accused, who was acquitted.

The Crown appealed, and the province's top court ruled the trial judge should not have excluded the evidence, setting aside the acquittal and ordering a new trial.

The BC Civil Liberties Association is arguing such searches expand police powers, chip away at privacy rights and must specifically authorize authorities to search a computer to be lawful.

Organizations: Supreme Court of Canada, BC Civil Liberties Association

Geographic location: VANCOUVER, Fraser Valley, Langley

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