More on searches – inventory

First Quon, now the Army Times reports that:

A federal appeals court says the search of a Virginia Army private’s MP3 player that found child pornography was constitutional.

Here is a link to the decision in United States v. Rendon.

While in the Army, Rendon’s MP3 player was examined pursuant to the standard intake procedure of the unit to which he had been transferred, and child pornography was discovered on the player. Based on that evidence and Rendon’s subsequent statement to military officers that there was a "high" likelihood that child pornography would be discovered on his computers at his residence—his mother’s house in Lorton, Virginia—a state search warrant issued at the request of the Fairfax County Police Department to search the residence.  The search of the computers produced thousands of images containing child pornography.

In this appeal, we conclude that in the circumstances of this case Rendon [a supposed inventory search] did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the contents of his MP3 player that was violated and that therefore the state search warrant was not the fruit of an illegal search. Accordingly, we affirm.

Rendon argued:

He argues that the search was not conducted as part of a valid military inspection, as defined in Military Rule of Evidence 313(b), because it was conducted primarily for law-enforcement purposes and was not justified by military necessity.

The court [below] found that the inspection of the MP3 player was conducted "for a
military—not law enforcement—purpose" dictated by the military’s need "‘for good order and discipline in the armed forces.’" (Quoting Henson v. United States, 27 Fed. Cl. 581,
593 (1993)). The court also found that the inspection of Rendon’s MP3 player was "in accordance with pre-existing, written authorization from the unit command. Both the [DSCB Handbook] and directives from Captain Horton provided sufficient particulars as to the purpose and scope of the inspection," and "[a]t no point did the drill sergeants or Captain Horton exceed the parameters of the inspection."