One exception to this is a search incident to arrest — if the police are arresting you, they can search you and your possessions without first obtaining a warrant. During the past few decades, Gershowitz explains, courts have given the police wide rein in conducting such searches. If police arrest a driver, they’re allowed to search not only the driver but the car, passengers in the car, and “containers” in the car — envelopes, wallets, aspirin bottles — that they find. And incriminating evidence they find — even if it’s not related to the crime they’re arresting you for — can be admissible in court.
In recent years courts have been asked to rule on the legality of police searches of electronic devices found during the course of an arrest, and judges have almost always come down on the side of the officers.
The most obvious answer is “Don’t do illegal stuff, ever” but frankly my experience of the police forces, admittedly limited to Northern Ireland, would make me hesitate to wonder if even this is enough.
The obvious thing to do, just in case you are involved in something dubious (and even then, looking at Dumb Laws it can be something as puerile and stupid as:
- Those wishing to purchase a television must also buy a license.
- Chelsea Pensioners may not be impersonated.
- It is illegal to leave baggage unattended.
- Picking up abandoned baggage is an act of terrorism.
- Any person found breaking a boiled egg at the sharp end will be sentenced to 24 hours in the village stocks (enacted by Edward VI).
and other similar nonsense) is to password protect or otherwise encrypt your data.
From The Register:
“The last line of defense really is you holding your own password,” Lee Tien, a senior staff attorney at the EFF, said.
Aha, that may work in the US with the whole Fifth Amendment stuff, but what about in the UK where, of course, we care about.
From The Register again, regarding the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act, 2000:
The RIP Bill contains one truly frightening basic assumption: if you have stored on your computer any form of encrypted message, you will be forced on request by the police to hand over the necessary keys to decrypt this data. If you do not have the keys, YOU MUST PROVE THAT YOU HAVE NEVER BEEN IN POSSESSION OF THEM, or you could be subject to a two-year jail term.
So much for the lack of self-incrimination.