Monday, June 21, 2010

Routine Military Search of MP3 Player OK Under Fourth Amendment

US v. Rendon: Rendon was in the Army and was transferred from one unit to another at Fort Knox, Kentucky, in order to be processed for a medical discharge. As part of the protocol for coming into a new unit, Rendon's possessions were search, including his MP3 player, which would be "turned on and checked to ensure that the[re] are no graphic materials on them such as pornography." An inspection of Rendon's MP3 player uncovered child pornography. As a result, a search warrant was executed at Rendon's home in Virginia which uncovered more images and videos of child pornography. Rendon was indicted for possession of child pornography and sought to suppress the evidence from the searches. The district court denied the motion, holding that Rendon had no expectation of privacy in the MP3 player because the search was committed for military, no law enforcement, purposes. Rendon pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 97 months in prison.

On appeal, Rendon renewed his argument that the search of his MP3 player violated the Fourth Amendment. Specifically, Rendon argued that the Army's search was not done pursuant to a valid military inspection and was done for law enforcement purposes. The court disagreed, holding that the initial search of the MP3 player was done pursuant to military policy intended to implement military, not law enforcement, goals and that there was no individualized suspicion of Rendon prior to the discovery of contraband on his player.

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