United States v. Dreyer

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Criminal Law
  • Date Filed: 09-12-2014
  • Case #: 13-30077
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Court Judge Berzon for the Court, Circuit Court Judges O'Scannlain and Kleinfield
  • Full Text Opinion

A military affiliated investigator that investigates non-military related crimes and does not have a reasonable connection between the military and the crimes violates the Posse Comitatus Act.

In late 2010, a special agent for the Naval Criminal Investigation Service (“NCIS”), Steve Logan (“Logan”) began investigating the distribution of child pornography online in Washington State. A few months into his investigation, Logan found an IP address belonging to Michael Dreyer (“Dreyer”) that was involved in child pornography file sharing. As Dreyer had no military affiliations, Logan turned the information over to local law enforcement officials in Washington. During the initial trial, Dreyer moved to suppress the evidence found by Logan, claiming that Logan’s involvement violated the Posse Comitatus Act (“PCA”). The court denied his motion and Dreyer was convicted of charges related to child pornography. On appeal, the Ninth Circuit looked to the PCA to determine whether the evidence obtained by Logan should have been suppressed. The PCA prohibits any military personnel from enforcing civilian laws unless otherwise authorized. The court has previously stated that the use of military personnel for the pursuit of individuals or for surveillance purposes falls under the category of direst assistance that is prohibited by the PCA. Additionally, this case does not fall under the “independent military purpose exception” to the PCA because the actions taken were not intended to carry out an actual military investigation. The panel explained that the Navy seems to be making a habit out of conducting surveillance of all civilians’ computers in a particular state to see if they can detect wrongdoing, and then turning over information to local law enforcement when no military connection exists. Therefore, based on the Navy’s prior past conduct and the lack of any articulable connection between the military and the crimes that were being investigated, the panel found that the PCA was violated and that the illegally-obtained evidence should have been suppressed. REVERSED AND REMANDED.

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