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Circuit City-Initiated Search OK’d

Posted Aug 14, 2007 5:58 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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A Pennsylvania appeals court has upheld a police search for computer files of child pornography done after employees at a Circuit City store spotted suspicious downloads.

The defendant had no expectation of privacy in video files on the computer, the court ruled in its Aug. 9 opinion. The ruling reversed a common pleas judge who had granted a suppression motion, the Legal Intelligencer reports.

The defendant had left the computer at the store for installation of an optical drive and DVD burner. Employees told the man they would test the installation, but did not offer specifics. During the test, they searched for video files on the computer and spotted what appeared to be pornography. Then they called police, who obtained a warrant and found child pornography.

“Appellee was not compelled to take this particular computer containing child pornography to the store in the first instance, nor was he forced to leave it there after being informed that the burner’s operability would be checked,” the court said. “Appellee was aware of the child pornography and could have elected to leave the store with the computer rather than risk discovery of the pornographic files.”

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