Citation Edit

United States v. Carey, 172 F.3d 1268 (10th Cir. 1999) (full-text).

Factual Background Edit

The police had a warrant allowing them to search the defendant’s computer files for "names, telephone numbers, ledger receipts, addresses, and other documentary evidence pertaining to the sale and distribution of controlled substances."[1] During the course of the search, Detective Lewis came across files with sexually suggestive titles and the suffix .jpg. Lewis opened one of those files and observed child pornography. He subsequently downloaded numerous other .jpg files and opened some of them, revealing additional child pornography. The .jpg files featured sexually suggestive or obscene names, many including the word "teen" or "young."[2]

Detective Lewis testified that, until he opened each file, he really did not know its contents.[3] He stated: "I wasn't conducting a search for child pornography, that happened to be what these turned out to be."[4]

Appellate Court Proceedings Edit

Although the trial court denied the defendant’s motion to suppress without making any findings of fact, the appellate court reversed, stating its own view of the evidence:

[T]he case turns upon the fact that each of the files containing pornographic material was labeled .jpg and most featured a sexually suggestive title. Certainly after opening the first file and seeing an image of child pornography, the searching officer was aware — in advance of opening the remaining files — what the label meant. When he opened the subsequent files, he knew he was not going to find items related to drug activity as specified in the warrant[.][5]

References Edit

  1. 172 F.3d at 1270.
  2. Id. at 1271 n.3.
  3. Id. at 1271. The detective testified that image files could contain evidence pertinent to a drug investigation such as pictures of "a hydroponic growth system and how it's setup to operate" and that drug dealers often obscure or disguise evidence of their drug activity. Id. at 1270 n.2.
  4. Id. at 1271.
  5. Id. at 1274.

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