State v. Shields
The fourth amendment to the federal constitution and article first, §7 of the state constitution require a showing of probable cause prior to the issuance of a search warrant and, here, probable cause supported the issuance of a search warrant where the issuing judge reasonably could have concluded from the affidavit in support of the warrant that the defendant fit the profile of a collector of child pornography over the Internet by acknowledging sexually abusing one child and using the Internet to attempt to procure from a known collector of child pornography, the photograph of another child for the purpose of sexual gratification. Robert Shields III, was convicted, on a conditional plea of nolo contendere of possession of child pornography in the first degree. Shields appealed challenging the court's denial of his motion to suppress photographic and video recorded images depicting child pornography discovered in computer equipment seized from his residence pursuant to a search warrant. The Appellate Court affirmed the judgment concluding that the trial court properly determined that the affidavit in support of the search warrant application contained sufficient facts to establish probable cause to believe that child pornography would be found at the defendant's residence. The Supreme Court affirmed the Appellate Court's judgment. The affidavit information included a portion of the defendant's instant message conversation with a known collector of child pornography over the Internet. The defendant commented about sexual contact with his own child and repeatedly requested a photograph of another child so he could masturbate to it. The affidavit also contained general statements about the behavior of people who sexually exploit children. The issuing judge reasonably could have concluded that the defendant fit the profile of a collector of child pornography over the internet. Given the nature and extent of the other party's illicit conduct over the Internet, the defendant's act of contacting him was considered similar to accessing a child pornography website. Based on the facts in the affidavit, the issuing judge reasonably found probable cause to believe that the defendant possessed child pornography and that evidence of that crime would be found in computer equipment at his residence, even if the defendant attempted to erase such evidence. That other reasonable inferences might have been drawn did not alter this conclusion.