March 21, 2006

Court upholds search in child pornography case

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court upheld on
Tuesday the search of a California man's home for child
pornography and ruled law enforcement officers can get a search
warrant in advance of an expected crime.

The unanimous opinion written by Justice Antonin Scalia
said the fact that a warrant was obtained in advance of a crime
does not make it unconstitutional, as long as is it probable
that contraband, like child pornography, will be present when
the search is carried out later.

The case involved Jeffrey Grubbs, who purchased a videotape
containing child pornography from a Web site operated by an
undercover U.S. postal inspector. Officers from the Postal
Inspector Service arranged delivery of a package containing the
videotape to his home in Galt, California.

They obtained a search warrant for the residence after
explaining it would be executed only after the package had been
delivered. Two days later, the package arrived and officers
then entered the house and began the search.

Grubbs agreed to be questioned by the officers and admitted
ordering the videotape. He was arrested and various items,
including the videotape, were seized.

Grubbs, who pleaded guilty to one count of child
pornography, sought to suppress the evidence seized. He said
the warrant was invalid because it did not list the triggering
event -- the delivery of the videotape -- for the search.

Scalia disagreed. He said the Constitution only required
details in the warrant about the place to be searched and the
persons or the items to be seized.

He upheld as constitutional "anticipatory" search warrants
that are based on a showing that it is probable that evidence
of a crime will be located at a specific place in the future.

Scalia said the magistrate still must determine it is
probable that contraband or evidence of a crime will be present
when the search is executed.