Today the Sixth Circuit handed down a case on probable cause to search a home based in large part on a subscription to a child pornography website: United States v. Frechette. I blogged in detail about this issue a few years ago, so I wanted to cover the latest case, as well.
The defendant, Douglas Frechette, had a previous criminal history and was listed in the Michigan State Sex Offender Registry as living at a particular address in Muskegon, Michigan. Bank and drivers license records confirmed that he lived at that address. One day, Frechette created a PayPal account in his own name, linked to his own bank account, and from an IP addressed assigned to his home purchased a one-month subscription for $80 to a child pornography website, HTTP:\\[redacted]-lolita.com.” The purchase of the one-month subscription was the only purchase Frechette ever made on his PayPal account. The opinion indicates that the homepage of the website was extremely clear that it was entirely about very disturbing images of child pornography. Visitors to the site were “welcomed” with very graphic and patently illegal images.
It is unclear how long the site stayed on line. A little more than a year after Frechette’s purchase, however, agents learned of the purchase and confirmed from the sex offender registry that Frechette still lived at the same address in Muskegon. The agents applied for a warrant to search Frechette’s home based on that information. A search of of the home led to the discovery of child pornography images and a confession by Frechette. That then led to charges against Frechette, and a motion to suppress the images and the confession as a fruit of an allegedly unlawful search.
The question in the case was whether the magistrate judge had a “substantial basis” to […]