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Arizona Court Determines Officers Must Get a Warrant to Obtain ISP Information

Earlier this year, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in an Arizona child pornography case discussing whether the lower court correctly denied the defendant’s motion to suppress. The defendant’s motion sought suppression of the illicit images as well as information that officers obtained through a subpoena sent to his internet service provider (ISP). Ultimately, the court concluded that such information could only be obtained with a warrant, however, because officers were acting in good-faith at the time they gathered the information, the evidence in the defendant’s case was not suppressible.

According to the court’s opinion, undercover detectives working in a child pornography sting placed an ad in an online forum, asking those interested in child pornography and incest to join a messaging group. Several users responded to the advertisement, including a user by the name of “tabooin520.” Within days of being added to the group, tabooin520 posted images portraying child pornography. Detectives sent a private message thanking the user for posting the photos, and the user responded with additional pornographic pictures of children.

Arizona detectives were working with federal investigators on this particular sting, and asked investigators to serve a subpoena on the messaging application, seeking the user’s IP address. With this information, detectives determined the defendant’s internet service provider. Detectives then issued a subpoena seeking the physical address associated with the IP address.

When officers arrived at the defendant’s home, they recovered a cell phone, external hard drive, and several computers, all containing elicit images of children. Police arrested the defendant, charging him with 20 counts of sexual exploitation of a minor.

The defendant sought suppression of the identifying information obtained from his ISP, as well as the physical evidence seized from his home. The defendant argued that detectives violated the Fourth Amendment and Article II, section 8 of the Arizona Constitution when they obtained his subscriber information without a warrant or court order. The trial court denied the defendant’s motion, finding that he did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the subscriber information.

On appeal, the court disagreed with the lower court’s decision, but upheld its ruling nonetheless. The court determined that ISP subscriber data was protected under Article II, section 8, which provides that “no person shall be disturbed in his private affairs, or his home invaded, without authority of law.” However, because the court also believed that the officers were acting in good faith at the time they obtained the information, the court concluded that the good-faith exception to the exclusionary rule applied. Thus, the court upheld the denial of the defendant’s motion to suppress.

Have You Been Arrested and Charged with an Arizona Crime?

If you have recently been charged with an Arizona felony offense, contact Attorney James E. Novak. Attorney Novak is an experienced criminal defense attorney who routinely handles serious allegations including those involving Arizona child pornography charges and sexual assault charges. To learn more about how Attorney Novak can help you defend against the charges you are facing, call 480-413-1499 to schedule a free consultation today.

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