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Can The US Government Force Ulbricht to Hand Over His Bitcoins?

Posted by Matt on November 05, 2013         Tagged with: crime, tech, bitcoins

A few weeks ago I wrote a long piece about the Silk Road takedown and the arrest of Ross Ulbricht, the alleged Dread Pirate Roberts. The piece was focused on DPR's private stash of Bitcoins and why the FBI would have problems seizing them even if Ulbricht really is DPR. The first part of the post focused on the design of bitcoins and the second part focused on whether, under US or Canadian law, the government could force Ulbricht to divulge the key to unlock his wallet.

But I got hung up on a point of law that I just couldn't answer, so I never published the post. I just stumbled across this post from TIME which deals with some of the same issues, so I thought I'd share it just in case that really is an area people care about.

By the way, the legal point I got stuck on (and which the TIME post doesn't address) was this: does the legal standard for forcing someone to divulge their encryption key change when the government only wants the key for the purpose of seizing an asset and not for the purpose of proving guilt?