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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. From his recent appearance on WRTV to this story here, Frank is everywhere. Couldn't happen to a nicer guy, although he should stop using Eric Schnauffer for his 7th Circuit briefs. They're not THAT hard.

  2. They learn our language prior to coming here. My grandparents who came over on the boat, had to learn English and become familiarize with Americas customs and culture. They are in our land now, speak ENGLISH!!

  3. @ Rebecca D Fell, I am very sorry for your loss. I think it gives the family solace and a bit of closure to go to a road side memorial. Those that oppose them probably did not experience the loss of a child or a loved one.

  4. If it were your child that died maybe you'd be more understanding. Most of us don't have graves to visit. My son was killed on a state road and I will be putting up a memorial where he died. It gives us a sense of peace to be at the location he took his last breath. Some people should be more understanding of that.

  5. Can we please take notice of the connection between the declining state of families across the United States and the RISE OF CPS INVOLVEMENT??? They call themselves "advocates" for "children's rights", however, statistics show those children whom are taken from, even NEGLIGENT homes are LESS likely to become successful, independent adults!!! Not to mention the undeniable lack of respect and lack of responsibility of the children being raised today vs the way we were raised 20 years ago, when families still existed. I was born in 1981 and I didn't even ever hear the term "CPS", in fact, I didn't even know they existed until about ten years ago... Now our children have disagreements between friends and they actually THREATEN EACH OTHER WITH, "I'll call CPS" or "I'll have [my parent] (usually singular) call CPS"!!!! And the truth is, no parent is perfect and we all have flaws and make mistakes, but it is RIGHTFULLY OURS - BY THE CONSTITUTION OF THIS GREAT NATION - to be imperfect. Let's take a good look at what kind of parenting those that are stealing our children are doing, what kind of adults are they producing? WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENS TO THE CHILDREN THAT HAVE BEEN RIPPED FROM THEIR FAMILY AND THAT CHILD'S SUCCESS - or otherwise - AS AN ADULT.....

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