State v. Combest

Summarized by:

  • Court: Oregon Court of Appeals
  • Area(s) of Law: Criminal Law
  • Date Filed: 05-13-2015
  • Case #: A151950
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Sercombe, P.J., for the Court; Hadlock, J.; & Tookey, J.
  • Full Text Opinion

Police department's investigation of criminal activity on a public file sharing network not considered a "search" which would trigger a privacy interest on the behalf of a user of the network.

A forensics analyst discovered that an IP address linked to Defendant had downloaded multiple files containing child pornography using a file sharing service. Defendant was charged with two counts of first-degree encouraging child sexual abuse and three counts of second-degree encouraging child sexual abuse. Defendant filed a motion to suppress the evidence, alleging that a search had been conducted without a warrant. The State argued that Defendant had no right to privacy because the file-sharing service was public. The trial court denied Defendant’s motion, after which Defendant pled guilty for all charges. Defendant appealed, arguing that the police should have obtained a warrant prior to the search of the files which Defendant downloaded. The state contended that the discovery of Defendant’s IP address on the file-sharing service did not constitute a search and therefore did not require a warrant. Citing previous cases in which the use of particular technology to discover publicly available information was not considered a “search,” the Oregon Court of Appeals found that, because the information on the network was accessible by anyone using the network, Defendant’s activity was not sufficiently private so as to trigger a privacy interest on the part of the Defendant. The police did not target Defendant’s activity specifically, but rather investigated activity related to child pornography and thereby discovered Defendant’s downloads. The Court concluded that the police did not conduct a search and that the trial court was correct to deny Defendant’s motion to suppress. Affirmed.

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