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Appeals Court Hears Arguments Over Briefcase Search

Appeals Court Hears Arguments Over Briefcase Search

Posted - Sep. 27, 2004 at 7:33 a.m.



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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- The Utah Court of Appeals has heard arguments over whether police had a right to open a brief case in which they found child porn.

Truck driver Romie Henry Miller claims police unlawfully seized his briefcase, which he had left accidentally in a semitrailer truck he was moving out of.

The case stems from an incident in September 2003 when 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 that he had leased.

Later that day, a company employee found the briefcase in the truck's sleeper compartment.

The employee looked inside and found child pornography. The company then contacted West Valley police, who sent an officer to investigate. The 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.

Defense attorney Stephen Spencer argued before the Utah Court of Appeals last week that the police officer had no right to search Miller's briefcase without a warrant because there was a reasonable expectation of privacy.

By searching the briefcase, the officer found more child pornography than what C.R. England employees had seen.

Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Gray said the U.S. Supreme Court has clearly established that police may open containers where there is clearly no expectation of privacy.

Gray said high courts have already established while people renting hotel rooms have an expectation of privacy, when that time has expired, police have a right to search any container deemed left behind or abandoned.

Gray argued that there is little practical difference between a rented space in a hotel and a rented truck.

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

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