Following a hearing in the San Francisco Superior Court today, DJs and party guests Justin Credible and Matthew Higgins had their illegally seized laptops returned to them. This is great news, and a real relief to the pair who have been without their machines for over a month. It started on Halloween, when San Francisco police officers broke up a private party and took the computers -- even though neither laptop was being used to play music. The police department attorney conceded at today's hearing that no charges would ever be filed against Credible or Higgins, which was clear from the very beginning.
San Francisco law currently requires after-hours parties with live DJs to get a permit, and failure of those throwing the party to do so can be punished as a misdemeanor. But DJing an unpermitted party is not a crime, and certainly not one for which one's laptop could be forfeited and held. EFF brought witnesses from the Halloween party and other events to testify that what happened to our clients was part of a pattern of illegal police practices, including rifling through purses and backpacks to find and seize laptops by people who were not even DJing. Both the SF Guardian and the SF Weekly have covered the story. The Court said EFF's offer to prove that the laptop seizures were both illegal and for the improper purpose of punishing after-hours party guests should be heard by another judge at a later time.
Side A of our efforts: accomplished. Stay tuned for Side B of our effort to protect the privacy of San Franciscans' laptops.