United States v. Ziegler, 474 F.3d 1184 (9th Cir. 2007)

After the owner of Frontline Processing contacted the FBI with a tip that an employee, Brian Ziegler, had accessed child pornography on the Internet from a workplace computer, Frontline entered Ziegler’s locked office and made a copy of the computer’s hard drive, which was provided to the FBI. Forensic examiners at the FBI discovered many images of child pornography on the hard drive. A federal grand jury handed down a three-count indictment charging Ziegler with receipt and possession of child pornography and receipt of obscene material in violation of federal law. Ziegler pled not guilty and filed a motion to suppress the evidence obtained from the hard drive, arguing the FBI had violated his Fourth Amendment rights by directing Frontline to search his computer. The Court concluded that although Ziegler had a reasonable expectation of privacy regarding his office – because he did not share it with any co-workers and because it was kept locked – his employer had the right to give its consent to the government’s warrantless search of the office Ziegler used and the company’s computer that was located there.