7th Circuit addresses digital media searches

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Despite being troubled by some aspects of a police officer's search of computers of a man charged with voyeurism - during which the officer discovered child pornography - the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals found the search didn't exceed the scope of the original warrant.

In United States of America v. Matthew Eric Mann, No. 08-3041, Matthew Mann appealed the denial of his motion to suppress evidence of child pornography found on computers police searched to find evidence of voyeurism. Women in a locker room discovered a camera Mann had installed while working at the facility as a lifeguard. The police got a warrant to search Mann's computers to find images of women in locker rooms or other private areas. The police took a few computers and related items. 

Two months later, Lafayette Police Detective Paul Huff searched Mann's computers using software that would put the images into a viewable format and also alert police to Known File Filter files, which typically are previously identified child pornography images.

Huff found images from locker rooms and child pornography after searching the two computers. Two months later, he found four KFF alert files of child pornography on the external hard drive, and that many other flagged images were also of child pornography. Huff also found two videos from a high school locker room.

Mann tried to suppress the evidence because the officers exceeded the scope of the warrant. The District Court concluded with limited exceptions the search was within the scope of the warrant. Mann then entered a conditional guilty plea to possession of child pornography and reserved his right to appeal the denial of his challenge to suppress.

Mann wanted the Circuit judges to use United States v. Carey, 172 F.3d 1268 (10th Cir. 1999), to overturn the District Court's decision, but the 7th Circuit found Mann's case was similar to United States v. Wong, 334 F.3d 831 (9th Cir. 2003). Like the officer in Wong, Huff continued to look for voyeuristic images even after he discovered the child pornography.

The Circuit judges also decided the four KFF alert files were outside the scope of the search because Huff should have known once they were flagged, they would be child pornography. However, the other images Huff discovered should have been allowed because images indicating voyeurism could have been hidden anywhere in the computer and not easily recognizable, noted Judge Ilana Rovner.

The 7th Circuit also advised those involved in searches of digital media to exercise caution to ensure warrants describe "with particularity the things to be seized and that searches are narrowly tailored to uncover only those things described."

Although they allowed the images other than the 4 KFF alert files found by Huff to be admitted into evidence, "we emphasize that his failure to stop his search and request a separate warrant for child pornography is troubling," wrote Judge Rovner.

The appellate judges found it problematic that Huff waited two months before searching additional computer equipment but notwithstanding their "distaste for the timeline of the investigation,"  the original warrant authorized Huff's search of the external hard drive for voyeuristic images.


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  1. I think the cops are doing a great job locking up criminals. The Murder rates in the inner cities are skyrocketing and you think that too any people are being incarcerated. Maybe we need to lock up more of them. We have the ACLU, BLM, NAACP, Civil right Division of the DOJ, the innocent Project etc. We have court system with an appeal process that can go on for years, with attorneys supplied by the government. I'm confused as to how that translates into the idea that the defendants are not being represented properly. Maybe the attorneys need to do more Pro-Bono work

  2. We do not have 10% of our population (which would mean about 32 million) incarcerated. It's closer to 2%.

  3. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  4. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  5. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.