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United States v. Campos, 221 F.3d 1143 (10th Cir. 2000) (full-text).
Factual Background Edit
The defendant, using the screen name “IAMZEUS”, participated in an online chat room on America Online,Inc. (AOL) and exchanged messages and photographs with a resident from Aurora, Illinois (“complainant”) on the evening of April 16-17, 1997. At approximately 4:00 a.m. on April 17, complainant signed onto his AOL account and discovered IAMZEUS had sent e-mail including several images of adult men, and two images of children engaged in sexually explicit conduct. The complainant copied the images of the child pornography onto a disk, notified the FBI and gave the disk to the special agent who interviewed him.
Law enforcement determined that defendant was the AOL subscriber using the name “IAMZEUS” and the FBI obtained a search warrant to search defendant’s home and computer based upon that information. Agents discovered a computer in a back room of the house and seized it. In examining the computer, agents found the two images that had been transmitted to the complainant. Defendant sought a motion to suppress the evidence from the search, but the motion was denied.
Trial Court Proceedings Edit
In response to the defendant’s complaint that law enforcement had grounds to only search for the two images and not other child pornography, the court held that the warrant was not overly broad. When a computer user wants to conceal criminal evidence, the user often stores it in random order with deceptive file names. This possibiity is handled by searching and examining all the stored data to determine whether it is included in the warrant. Also, since computer evidence is vulnerable to tampering or destruction, the controlled environment of a laboratory is essential to it complete analysis. Computers also contain both relevant and irrelevant information. Therefore, due to the large capacity of computers, officers must take a special approach.
In addition, the court stated that the magistrate should have required officers to specify in a warrant which type of files are sought. However, the court found that the defendant offered no evidence as to the methods used by the officers in searching through his computer files. Therefore, the evidence was not suppressed.