United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit Holds No Right to Privacy When One’s Hard Drive is Installed in Someone Else’s ComputerWithout Password Protection
A recent appellate holding by the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in U.S. v. Richard D. King, Jr. establishes that one gives up the right to privacy when sharing the use of a computer with others. The Supreme Court of the United States had established that a present co-tenant could refuse police search of a premises regardless of the consent of other tenants. The Court, however, never established whether said holding applied to personal belongings once police were allowed entrance to the premises.
Richard D. King, Jr. was charged with violations of Federal Child Pornography and Sexual Assault statutes when police discovered child pornography on his girlfriend’s home computer. King, who lived with his girlfriend, installed his own hard drive into his girlfriend’s computer. Police obtained an arrest warrant for King relating to his child pornography activities and executed said warrant at the couple’s home. While at the home, King’s girlfriend consented to the search and seizure of her computer. Upon search, police discovered multiple images which were subsequently used against King in his criminal proceeding. King’s attorney attempted to suppress the evidence obtained from King’s hard drive, arguing that King’s girlfriend did not have the authority to consent to the search and seizure of King’s hard drive; although she owned the computer itself. The suppression motion was denied; King was convicted and appealed to the Circuit Court.
Upon hearing King’s appeal, the Circuit Court held that the Supreme Court’s previous holding in Georgia v. Randolph did not apply to the case at bar. Here, King did not oppose entrance to the premises as the police had a sufficient warrant. The Court held that the holding in Randolph does not apply to personal belongings and effects, rather dwellings only. Further, King did not have his hard drive password protected. Since anyone using the computer was free to access the images without King’s consent via password, the Court determined his motion to suppress was properly denied and upheld King’s conviction.
Suppression of Evidence
In a criminal trial, the burden is on the prosecution to prove guilt beyond all reasonable doubt. The prosecution builds their case with evidence; some evidence stronger than other. There are rules regarding evidence, both State and Federal, which govern what evidence is admissible and what is not. Often, some or all of the evidence the prosecution wishes to use was obtained illegally, either by police or third party. An experienced criminal defense attorney is an expert in the field of evidence. Upon reviewing a defendant’s case, a criminal defense attorney will determine if some of the evidence can and should be suppressed, and will take the appropriate actions to do so.
If you have been charged with a criminal offense, contact the Law Offices of Marc Neff via phone at (215) 563-9800 or e-mail Marc@nefflawoffices.com for a confidential consultation.