A motion to suppress a warrant allowing Crow Wing County's seizure of Brainerd Public Library's computers for a criminal investigation has been denied.
The Kitchigami Regional Library board, in a motion filed Nov. 9, argued that the seizure of the computers Nov. 2 by Crow Wing County Sheriff's deputies for a criminal investigation violated its patrons free speech and privacy rights.
In his order recently filed, Crow Wing County Judge Fred Casey stated, "The state's interest in well-founded criminal charges and the fair administration of criminal justice override the constitutional considerations of the library patrons in this case."
Casey further ruled, "To hold that the library's public access computers cannot be seized due to constitutional concern of innocent library patrons would give individuals virtually free reign to commit any number of undetected computer-related crimes from those machines."
The library argued the seizure of computers could violate First and Fourth Amendment rights, as well as Minnesota Constitutional rights.
In its motion, the library claimed that, through the inspection of the seized hard drives, authorities could get private data about numerous individuals who are not targeted by the investigation, and such disclosure, "will have the effect of chilling speech and placing obstacles in the path of those seeking to exercise First Amendment rights ...," and "the disclosure of such data to law enforcement officials is a violation of library patrons' Fourth Amendment right to privacy."
On Nov. 2, the Crow Wing County Sheriff's Department, investigating a stalking case, obtained the search warrant to seize and copy information from the hard drives of the library's computers.
The information the sheriff's department was looking for has to do with the criminal investigation of an alleged stalker who used the computers, and also went in person, to harass another individual.
Eight computers were returned within two weeks, but law enforcement officials are holding the ninth computer. Charges haven't been filed against the suspect while the Crow Wing County Attorney's office awaited the judge's order.
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