United States v. Brixen 7thCIR 7NOV2018

United States v. Brixen 7thCIR 7NOV2018

This case has an interesting intersection between Fourth Amendment search and seizure law and Fifth Amendment self-incrimination law.

Officers had the defendant (Brixen) under investigation for attempting to use a Snapchat communication to lure an underage female to meet him.  Unbeknownst to Brixen, the 14-year old girl he was communicating with was a bearded detective at the Altoona Police Department named Jeff Baumgarten. When the detective arrested Brixen and conducted his search incident to arrest, he discovered Brixen’s telephone on him.  Brixen was Mirandized and waived and agreed to talk. To prove he was really the person Brixen was communicating with, Baumgarten sent a Snapchat to Brixen and it immediately notified Brixen on his phone under the false screen name the detective had been using. Snap! Confronted with this evidence, Brixen confessed to trying to meet a 14-year old female to take her shopping for undergarments.

Brixen sought to have the evidence of the Snapchat notification sent to his phone, arguing this search was an unlawful search of the cellphone incident to arrest under the 2014 Supreme Court decision California v. Riley. In Riley, the Supreme Court ruled that the contents of a cellphone cannot be searched The Seventh Circuit distinguished this case since the detective did not search the contents and ruled that “Brixen did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the conspicuous notifications that appeared on his phone after it was seized incident to arrest.”

To read or download the full opinion CLICK HERE.

Kudos to Detective Baumgarten for his very effective and lawful interrogation technique!

Remember, confronting the suspect with the evidence does not make a confession involuntary.