IP address enough for search warrant

The Daily Record Newswire

Evidence that the user of a computer employing a particular IP address possessed or transmitted child pornography can support a search warrant for the physical premises linked to that IP address, the 3rd Circuit has ruled.

While conducting an operation targeting those who accessed online child pornography, a federal agent obtained an IP address. He contacted the Internet service provider and received the physical address connected to the IP address. A local agent applied for a warrant to search the address, which was the defendant's apartment, and found child erotica and pornography.

A jury convicted the defendant of possession of child pornography, but he appealed. He argued that the warrant was not supported by probable cause because the basis was simply an IP address that attempted to download a video purporting to be child pornography.

The court disagreed.

"IP addresses are fairly 'unique identifiers.' The unique nature of the IP address assigned to [the defendant] on [the date he] made his attempts to access the [video] were fairly traceable to his Comcast account and the physical address to which that account was registered. Attempted possession of child pornography is a federal crime. Therefore, the attempts to access the [video] by someone using [the defendant's] IP address were undoubtedly criminal activity. ...

"Considering the 'totality of the circumstances' outlined in [the affidavit] we think it was fairly probable that 'instrumentalities or evidence' of that criminal activity - such as computers and computer equipment - would be found in [the defendant's] apartment," the court said.

It cited similar decisions from the 5th, 6th, 8th, 9th and 10th Circuits.

U.S. Court of Appeals, 3rd Circuit. U.S. v. Vosburgh, No. 08-4702. April 20, 2010. Lawyers USA No. 993-1809.

Published: Thu, May 13, 2010

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