TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Appeals Court Okays Computer Searches For Child Porn

Appeals Court Okays Computer Searches For Child Porn

Reuters News Wire (
Thu, 9 Mar 2006 19:43:11 -0600

US court OKs computer searches for child porn

Police may search computer hard drives for child pornography if their
owners subscribe to Web sites selling the images, a U.S. appeals court
ruled on Thursday.

There is a "fair probability" customers of child pornography Web sites
receive or download the illegal images, opening the door for police
searches, according to the ruling by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of

The ruling affirmed a lower court's decision supporting an affidavit
by the Federal Bureau of Investigation for its probe of
Web site and subscriber Micah Gourde.

Gourde had sought to suppress more than 100 images of child
pornography seized from his home computer, arguing an FBI affidavit
did not establish probable cause he had violated child pornography
laws to justify a search of his computers.

The San Francisco-based court took up his appeal. The panel voted nine
to two in ruling that a district court had properly declined to
suppress the evidence.

The majority opinion by Judge M. Margaret McKeown held there was a
"reasonable inference" that supported a "fair probability" Gourde had
downloaded banned images.

She noted the owner of admitted to selling child
pornography over the Web site and Gourde subscribed to it with a
credit card and had unlimited access to its images. Additionally, she
held computer technology assured any images he received would leave a
trail for investigators.

"It neither strains logic nor defies common sense to conclude, based
on the totality of these circumstances, that someone who paid for
access for two months to a Web site that actually purveyed child
pornography probably had viewed or downloaded such images onto his
computer," McKeown added.

Gourde's attorney, Assistant Federal Public Defender Colin Fieman,
said he would discuss with Gourde whether to appeal it to the
U.S. Supreme Court.

Copyright 2006 Reuters Limited.

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