In a recent appeals court opinion in an Arizona child sex crimes case, the defendant unsuccessfully appealed his convictions and sentences for ten counts of sexual exploitation of a minor, class two felonies, and dangerous crimes against children. In the appeal, the defendant argued that his motions to suppress evidence were improperly denied by the trial court. The appeals court affirmed the trial court decision, finding that the files searched by law enforcement did not need to be limited to the certain files named by the defendant and that there was probable cause for the search of the defendant’s desktop computer. Subsequently, the appeals court ruled that the defendant did not show that the denial of his motion to suppress was not an abuse of discretion.
Facts of the Case
According to the opinion, in February of 2015, the Internet Crimes Against Children Taskforce (ICAC) obtained some downloads of child pornography from an internet protocol (“IP”) address that used a peer-to-peer network program called Torrent. After further investigation, a detective of the ICAC learned that the IP address was assigned to a residence in Mesa, AZ. The detective then obtained a search warrant for the home in question.
A search of the home did not produce evidence of illegal activity, but when officers asked the homeowner whether anyone else had access to his home’s secured Wi-Fi connection, he explained that his cousin, the defendant, had stayed with him in February of 2015. The detective then orchestrated a call between the homeowner and the defendant. On the call, the defendant claimed that a virus on his computer had downloaded the illegal images and he had not deleted them as he should have.
Following the call, the detective obtained and executed a search warrant for the defendant’s home. During the search, officers found significant amounts of pornographic images depicting children on the defendant’s hard drive and desktop computer. The state charged the defendant with ten counts of sexual exploitation of a minor.
On appeal, the defendant argued that his motion to suppress evidence was improperly denied by the trial court. The defendant made two arguments, stating that the search warrant for his residence was defective in two respects. First, he asserts the warrant lacked sufficient particularity because it allowed virtually every single item in the home capable of storing any kind of computer information to be searched for all files. Secondly, the defendant argued that police lacked probable cause to search his desktop computer because the police knew the device was not connected to the internet in February of 2015 when he lived with his cousin.
On the first issue, the appeals court held that while the search warrant for his residence listed a multitude of electronic devices, it is common practice for individuals that download such images to transfer and possess them on multiple devices. As a result, when the search warrant was executed, there was no way to know which device the offending images were stored on. As a result, the appeals court rejected the defendant’s argument that the warrant lacked sufficient particularity. On the second issue, the appeals court similarly points out that it is common practice for individuals that download such images to transfer and possess them on multiple devices, and the trial court could properly conclude that a substantial basis nonetheless existed to find that the defendant probably moved child pornography to his desktop computer at some point after moving to his new home. The appeals court rejected the defendant’s argument that the police lacked probable cause to search his desktop computer. The court of appeals affirmed the trial court decision in full.
Have You Been Charged with a Child Sex Crime in Arizona?
If you are facing criminal charges for a sex crime in Arizona, call us at The Law Office of James E. Novak. We are committed to advocating for your rights and exploring every aspect of your case to find the holes in the prosecution’s charges against you. For a free and confidential consultation, call us at 480-413-1499. You can also send us an online message to have your questions answered.