Federal Court Turns Down Ex-Paramedics Appeal in Child Pornography Case

The 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals rejected an appeal by a former Bradford County paramedic convicted of possession and receipt or distribution of child pornography Wednesday.

The 32-year-old man claimed his Fourth Amendment rights were violated after a supervisor viewed a thumb drive left in a county-owned computer that contained child porn.

The man supposedly told police that he was the owner of the thumb drive and had downloaded child porn onto it following his arrest in June 2009. The man left the thumb drive in a Bradford County computer in the office for paramedics.

County employees stumbled across the contents of the thumb drive after viewing its files in hopes of identifying the owner. The employees apparently found what county officials claimed was “obvious pornography”, as well as videos depicting children in sexual scenarios.

The man was convicted of child pornography and sentenced to 11 years and four months in federal prison as well as sex offender probation for life.

The man and his attorney appealed his conviction on the argument that he was the victim of unusual search and seizure, which violated his constitutional rights.

A federal appeals court rejected the appeal and ruled that the man’s rights were not violated because he did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy when he left his thumb drive in a county-owned computer.

The man is serving his sentence at the Jesup Federal Correctional Institution in southeastern Georgia.

The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution shields individuals against unreasonable searches and seizures by law enforcement officials. Courts often describe that this right allots people with a reasonable expectation of privacy. However, as this case shows, it is not always clear cut where individuals should reasonably expect their privacy to be protected. Oftentimes, employee computers are not viewed as private because the search of a work computer can be expected. The same principle applies when certain information is transferred to a third party, such as leaving a document behind where others may view it.

It is considered illegal for any law enforcement agent to enter a person’s private area and perform a random search for illegal activity. If police fail to follow proper protocol or provide false information to obtain a search warrant, any evidence associated with the illegal search and seizure can be thrown out. If the items seized were not included in the warrant description, a sex crimes defense lawyer can argue that the material be disregarded. Ultimately, it is up to the court to decide what is considered a reasonable expectation of privacy, but certain circumstances can limit or lower a person’s right to privacy.

The Florida Sex Crimes Defense Attorneys at Whittel & Melton will investigate all aspects of your arrest and thoroughly examine the search and seizure that took place. If an illegal search did take place, no evidence gathered can be admissible in court. If you were the victim of unusual search and seizure, we can file a motion to suppress the evidence or to reduce or completely dismiss charges against you.

If you feel your constitutional rights were violated during a sex crimes investigation throughout the state of Florida, contact the Florida Sex Crimes Defense Attorneys at Whittel & Melton online or call our Gainesville office at 352- 264-7800 or reach us toll-free at 866-608-5529.

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