United States v. John C. Saville
United States District Court for the District of Montana
2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 89281 (2013)
A detective reviewing information in the police department’s child-protection system observed a certain Internet protocol (IP) address giving query hit results for known child-pornography files. The detective learned that the IP address was associated with a Comfort Inn and concluded that someone was using the Comfort Inn’s wireless network and Shareaza, software for the peer-to-peer network Gnutella, to download child pornography. Gnutella was commonly associated with child-pornography transmission. To determine the wireless device’s location, the detective obtained a court order authorizing the use of pen-register and trap-and-trace (pen-trap) devices to obtain information regarding wireless communications in the Comfort Inn’s vicinity. The detective configured a device to search for “Gnutella” and “Shareaza” but not for terms like “preteen hardcore.” The device hit on Gnutella and sent emails containing routing and signaling information. Another device found the addresses of the wireless network adapters involved in the communications, leading the detective to a van parked near the Comfort Inn. The detective saw a laptop computer running on the seat and obtained a warrant to search the van. Two computers and four external storage drives were seized and found to contain child-pornography files. John Saville (defendant), the van’s occupant, was charged with receiving child pornography. Saville moved to suppress the evidence found in the van, arguing that the use of the pen-trap device captured content and was therefore an unlawful, warrantless search under the Fourth Amendment. Saville’s expert testified that the emails the detective received contained a “header” with routing and signaling information and a “payload” containing the content of the communications. The expert maintained that Gnutella had to be characterized as “content” because it appeared in the payload. The detective testified that the information captured related to the initial communication between two computers and was only dialing, routing, and signaling information.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Lynch, J.)
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