United States v. Soybel (7th Cir. September 2021)

The Federal Docket

September 27, 2021

Fourth Amendment: Pen registers for IP addresses are not constitutionally different from phone pen registers and as such are governed by Smith v. Maryland.

Edward Soybel was charged under 18 U.S.C § 1030 with twelve counts of violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act for initiating cyber-attacks against his former employer. To confirm that Soybel was the perpetrator of the attacks, the FBI sought a court order under the Pen Register Act  to monitor his internet traffic. Soybel filed a motion to suppress the evidence and fruits derived from this order, and the district court denied it. Thereafter, a jury convicted him on all charges, and he appealed.

Reviewing the issue de novo, the Seventh Circuit upheld the district court’s ruling that Soybel’s Fourth Amendment rights were not violated. Pen registers that identify visited IP addresses are not meaningfully different than those that identify called phone numbers, and thus, under Smith v. Maryland, they do not constitute a search and do not necessitate a warrant.

Appeal from the Northern District of Illinois
Opinion by Sykes, joined by Bauer and St. Eve

Click here to read the opinion

Tom Church - Tom is a trial and appellate lawyer focusing on criminal defense and civil trials. Tom is the author of "The Federal Docket" and is a contributor to Mercer Law Review's Annual Survey in the areas of federal sentencing guidelines and criminal law. Tom graduated with honors from the University of Georgia Law School where he served as a research assistant to the faculty in the areas of constitutional law and civil rights litigation. Read Tom's reviews on AVVO. Follow Tom on Linkedin.

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