Defendant, the former bookkeeper of Certified Data Products (CDP), pled guilty to embezzling over $650,000 from his former employer during the course of his employment. Defendant’s plea was conditioned on his right to appeal the denial of his motion to suppress evidence obtained from the warrantless search of two CDP computers that defendant regularly used. Although acknowledging that CDP had consented to the computer search, defendant argued that its consent was ineffective and any information obtained from the search was inadmissible because he had a reasonable expectation of privacy in the personal information he stored on the computers.
The court stated that in order to establish that a defendant had a “reasonable expectation” of privacy, “[the defendant] must establish that he had both ‘an actual (subjective) expectation of privacy,’ and ‘one that society is prepared to recognize.’” After finding no controlling precedent in New Jersey, the court, drawing upon federal court rulings, held that, because the computers were owned by, stored at and used by CDP, defendant had no reasonable expectation of privacy of the files stored on the computers. Although finding that defendant may have had a “subjective” expectation of privacy because he had installed a confidential password on the computer, the court ruled that such an expectation was not “reasonable,” stating that “neither the law nor society recognizes as legitimate defendant’s subjective expectation of privacy in a workplace computer he used to commit a crime.” (State of New Jersey v. M.A., 2008 WL 4057305 (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div. Aug. 29, 2008))