If you are into downloading child pornography, don't use a computer you purchased with someone else's credit card. In United States v. Caymen, No. 03-30365 (9th Cir. April 21, 2005), the police were notified that Caymen had purchased a computer using someone else's credit card number. The police went to investigate, warrant in hand, and seized the computer.
After seizing the laptop, the police called the business supply store where Caymen had gotten it to ask if they could look at it before returning it. The store’s owner not only consented to the police request, but he specifically requested that the police search the laptop’s hard drive because he didn’t “want to have anything [on the computer] that shouldn’t be there.” The police looked on the laptop’s hard drive for evidence of credit card fraud, but instead found images of boys, who were around ten or twelve-years-old, exhibiting their genitals for the camera. The police immediately stopped their search of the hard drive so that they could obtain a third search warrant, because they now had probable cause to believe that Caymen possessed child pornography. Using the third warrant, the police looked at the hard drives and storage media from both the laptop and tower computers for evidence of possession of child pornography. They found plenty — the hard drives were filled with sexually explicit images of children.
Caymen was charged with child pornography and moved to suppress the evidence found in the computer arguing he had not consented to the initial search and that the subsequent searches were the fruit of the first initial search. The district court denied the motion to suppress. The Court of Appeals upheld the denial on the grounds that because the computer had been obtained by fraud, Caymen had not carried his burden of establishing standing.
The Fourth Amendment does not protect a defendant from a warrantless search of property that he stole, because regardless of whether he expects to maintain privacy in the contents of the stolen property, such an expectation is not one that “society is prepared to accept as reasonable.” A legitimate expectation of privacy means more than a subjective expectation of not being discovered.