Justia Communications Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Colorado Supreme Court
This case revolves around the question of whether a search for internet-related evidence that extended to a previously unknown basement apartment was reasonable, even though the apartment was not specified in the warrant. The police had obtained a warrant to search a property after receiving information that child pornography had been downloaded to a particular IP address associated with that address. The property appeared to be a single-family home. However, during the execution of the warrant, the police encountered Kevin Matthew Dhyne, who lived in a basement apartment on the property and used the same internet access as the rest of the house. The police searched Dhyne’s apartment and found sexually explicit material involving children on his laptop.The trial court agreed with Dhyne's argument that the search violated the U.S. and Colorado constitutions because the warrant was not specific to his basement apartment. However, the court denied Dhyne’s motion to suppress the evidence, reasoning that even if the officers had not searched his apartment in conjunction with the original warrant, they would have executed the same search later that day under a warrant specific to the basement apartment, and the evidence would therefore have inevitably been discovered. Dhyne was convicted of two counts of sexual exploitation of a child.The Colorado Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s denial of the suppression motion, though it did so by upholding the search rather than by applying the inevitable discovery exception. The court of appeals agreed that for a multi-dwelling unit, separate dwellings normally require separate, specific warrants. However, the court justified the search of Dhyne’s apartment based on the shared use of the IP address.The Supreme Court of the State of Colorado affirmed the outcome, holding that the warrant's reference to the property's "[h]ouse, garage, and any outbuildings" was sufficiently specific because there were no outward indicators that the basement apartment existed. The court also held that the execution of the warrant was reasonable in this specific scenario, where the warrant was for all buildings on the property and the defendant told the police that he lived in the basement and used the IP address that provided grounds for the search. View "Dhyne v. People" on Justia Law