State v. Rivera
The so-called "private-search" exception provides that the protections of the Fourth Amendment apply to official government conduct, as opposed to the conduct of private individuals, pursuant to State v. Stevens, a 1992 decision of the Connecticut Appellate Court. Allegedly, the defendant's father passed away, and the defendant's sister asked the funeral home to retrieve pictures from a "thumb drive" for a slide show. The employee of the funeral home called the police, because he allegedly discovered pictures of adults performing sexual acts on children. A police computer crimes investigator observed pictures that appeared to be child pornography, and the state charged the defendant with possession of child pornography. The defendant moved to suppress and argued that evidence from the thumb drive was obtained as a result of an illegal, warrantless seizure. The Fourth Amendment proscribes government action and does not apply to a search or seizure that a private individual effectuates. The police computer crimes investigator who looked at the thumb drive did not expand the private search that the employee of the funeral home initiated. The court denied the defendant's motion to suppress evidence that the police obtained from the thumb drive without obtaining a search warrant. Subsequent search warrants that were based on the information in the thumb drive were not the fruit of illegal police conduct. The court also denied the defendant's motion to suppress evidence discovered in subsequent searches.