Baseball and the Search for Electronic Records

By Pike, George H. | Information Today, November 2009 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Baseball and the Search for Electronic Records

Pike, George H., Information Today

It is not often that I have a chance to write about baseball in this column, or about steroid use. However, a recent court decision involving baseball and steroids may end up being a landmark decision limiting the right of the government to seize electronic data records. And that is definitely worth writing about.

Since 2002, the government has been investigating the Bay Area Lab Co-Operative (BALCO) for its involvement in the use of illegal steroids, particularly among athletes. About the same time, Major League Baseball (MLB) and the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) entered into an agreement to provide drug testing for steroids. The testing was done by Comprehensive Drug Testing (CDT), an independent testing company, and the results were only supposed to be shared with the MLB and MLBPA.

BALCO Search Warrants

As part of its BALCO investigation, the government obtained search warrants for CDT's records, specifically focusing on 10 individuals who had allegedly been connected to BALCO. However, since the records were in the form of computer files, the government actually obtained the records for hundreds of ballplayers and other athletes and individuals because these records were intermingled with those of the 10 specific individuals.

After the records were seized, MLB, the MLBPA, and CDT went back to court to force the government to return the records that were seized. In late August, the federal 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the government had misused its authority to seize records properly under the search warrants and ordered the records returned. More importantly, the court issued strong new guidelines on the seizure of electronic records and data files.

The Fourth Amendment

The Fourth Amendment gives citizens the right to be "secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures." As its enforcement mechanism, the amendment also notes that search warrants may only be issued "upon probable cause," and that they must "particularly describ(e) the place to be searched and the persons or things to be seized."

The legitimate challenge for the government in the case of computer records is that "particular" records can often be difficult to identify on a computer drive containing hundreds or thousands of records. In addition, records are often encrypted, password-protected, or mislabeled (perhaps deliberately) to provide increased security or to avoid detection. Finally, records may also be stored remotely, where they may be commingled with the records of hundreds, thousands, or hundreds of thousands of other people.

Previous court decisions have held that the government could physically or electronically seize computers, servers, hard drives, backup tapes, or other devices, if the devices have records that the government is seeking. This is permitted to secure the information and allow the government the opportunity to analyze the computer or drive forensically and obtain the information it seeks.

In Plain View

However, it is not uncommon for other information to be accessed in the process of looking for particular records. In the BALCO case, the government invoked a legal concept known as "plain view" to seize additional records showing positive steroid tests by other ballplayers. The plain view doctrine provides that a police officer or government investigator may seize any evidence of criminality that is in the officer's "plain view.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Baseball and the Search for Electronic Records


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?