South-Western Legal Studies in Business

Chat Room Discussions about Illegal Matters Provides Basis for Warrant
Description

Court held that agents had adequate probable cause to obtain a search warrant for an e-mail account and an apartment based on chat room discussions about child pornography that led to an e-mail sending pornography to an agent who was monitoring the chat room.

Topic Cyberlaw
Key Words

Warrant; Evidence; E-mail Account; Chat Rooms; Pornography

C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts

Dietz was charged with possessing child pornography on his computer and shipping and receiving such material through his e-mail account. He was traced by an undercover agent who participates in chat rooms where it is suspected child pornographers share information. Dietz e-mailed pornography to the agent who got a subpoena that was served on AOL to obtain details of Deitz's transmissions. That search revealed more trafficking in child pornography and was the basis of the charges made against him. He moved to suppress the evidence, contending the warrant was improper.

Decision

Motion denied. Dietz shared information in a chat room regarding child pornography. That provided probable cause for a warrant to be issued to search his apartment and computer for the presence of pornography. There was also adequate probable cause for a warrant to be issued to require AOL to allow the agents to search Deitz's e-mail activity.

Citation

U.S. v. Dietz, ---F.Supp.2d--- (2006 WL 2726867, E.D. Penn., 2006)

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