The Indiana Court of Appeals rejected a man’s argument that the state’s courts should recognize a privacy interest in the subscriber information of an Internet service provider.
On interlocutory appeal of the denial of his motion to suppress, Monty Rader challenged the warrant issued to search his Greencastle home after he had several sexually suggestive chats with an undercover police officer posing as a teenage girl. He was charged with two counts of Class C felony child solicitation.
After chatting with Rader online, the officer subpoenaed Yahoo! to get the account information for the user name “monty20064;” Yahoo! said it was registered to “Mr. Monty Rader” in Greencastle and provided the IP address used to log into the account. The detective then subpoenaed the Internet service provider to get account information with that IP address. It came back registered to Kenneth Rader in Greencastle, who is Rader’s father.
The detective used this information to get a search warrant of the address connected to the IP address.
In Monty Rader v. State of Indiana, No. 49A02-0907-CR-691, Rader claimed that there wasn’t a sufficient nexus between his home and the alleged criminal activity to justify issuing the search warrant. But the probable cause affidavit explained that the account for the user name chatting with the undercover officer was registered in Rader’s name, and the IP address connected to the user name is associated with Rader’s address. The judges also found the lack of listing the actual IP addressed used by monty20064 wasn’t a fatal omission.
“… the IP address used to log in to the monty20064 account was, on the dates in question, assigned to Rader’s home,” wrote Judge Paul Mathias. “From this information, the issuing magistrate could properly link the criminal activity of the monty20064 account to both Monty Rader and the address where Rader lived.”
Rader also acknowledged that the Indiana Supreme Court has held a prosecutor can properly secure information from a third party, such as an ISP, by issuing a subpoena duces tecum, Oman v. State, 737 N.E.2d 1131, 1138 (Ind. 2000). Instead, Rader wanted the appellate court to adopt the holding of the New Jersey Supreme Court in State v. Reid, 945 A.2d 26, 27 (N.J. 2008), which held under the search and seizure provisions of that state’s constitution, citizens had a reasonable expectation of privacy in the subscriber information they provide to ISPs.
But that ruling also found law enforcement could satisfy the state’s constitutional requirements by serving a grand jury subpoena on an ISP, a similar ruling to the holding in Oman. The judges also declined to adopt the New Jersey holding because it’s beyond their authority.
“Rader concedes that Oman would permit the sort of subpoenas issued in the present case; he simply thinks Oman was decided incorrectly. If there is a change that should be made in the case law in this regard, it is a change that must come from our supreme court,” wrote Judge Mathias.