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Appeals Court Hears Arguments Over Briefcase Search

Appeals Court Hears Arguments Over Briefcase Search

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- A Utah court has dismissed the claims of a man who said police violated his rights when they searched his briefcase and found child pornography.

The case stems from an incident in September 2003 when truck driver Romie Miller worked as a contract truck driver for C.R. England. Miller's lease on his truck had expired, and he was in the process of moving his personal belongings to a new truck.

Later that day, a company employee found the briefcase in the truck's sleeper compartment. The employee looked inside and found child porn. The company then contacted West Valley police. An officer opened the briefcase and saw dozens of indecent photos of minors.

The photos were used as evidence against Miller, who was convicted on 10 counts of felony sexual exploitation of a minor and was sentenced to prison.

Miller's attorney argued that police had no right to search Miller's briefcase without a warrant because there was a reasonable expectation of privacy.

But prosecutors said the U.S. Supreme Court had clearly established that police may open containers where there is clearly no expectation of privacy, and the appeals court agreed.

"Defendant's expectation of privacy in the briefcase and its contents was lost after various C.R. England employees opened the briefcase, searched the materials inside, and invited law enforcement officers to examine it," according to the ruling.

(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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