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The exclusionary rule does not require the suppression of evidence within the scope of a warrant simply because other items outside the scope of the warrant were unlawfully taken as well.
A computer technician was repairing Hill’s computer when she discovered what she believed to be child pornography. She called Long Beach police, and the detective who took the call obtained a search warrant from a judge of the Long Beach Superior Court. The warrant authorized a search of the computer repair store and seizure of the computer, any work orders relating to the computer, "all storage media belonging to either the computer or the individual identifying himself as [Hil] at the location," and "all sexually explicit images depicting minors contained in the storage media." By the time the detective arrived at the store to execute the warrant, Hill had picked up his computer. . . . [T]he detective [submitted an affidavit, which included the computer technician's sworn statement describing the images. On the basis of this affidavit, the officer obtained] a second warrant, this one directed at Hill’s home, authorizing seizure of the same items. The affidavit on which the warrants were based described "two images of child pornography". Officers executed the search warrant but did not find the computer in defendant's apartment. In what appeared to be defendant's bedroom, they found and seized computer storage media[, specifically: 22 5.25-inch floppy disks, two CD-ROMs, 124 3.5-inch floppy disks and six zip disks.] [Two of the zip disks] were eventually determined to contain images of child pornography; [officers] also seized other evidence consistent with the warrant. Defendant was subsequently charged with one count of possession of child pornography, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §2252A(a)(5)(B). In the district court, Hill moved to suppress the evidence recovered from the two zip disks on the grounds that, (1) contrary to the magistrate's finding, the warrant affidavit did not establish probable cause to believe the defendant was guilty of criminal activity; and (2) the warrant was overbroad in allowing seizure of all discovered computer storage media with no regard to whether such media contained child pornography, and in placing no limitation on the police officers' search of the seized disks. The district court denied the motion to suppress, and Hill conditionally pled guilty to the charge, reserving the right to appeal the district court's evidentiary ruling.
Did the district court properly admit the evidence of child pornography found on Hill’s computer storage media notwithstanding the lack of a sufficiently detailed supporting affidavit describing the need for wholesale seizure of such?
The warrant here was overbroad in authorizing a blanket seizure in the absence of an explanatory supporting affidavit, which would have documented the informed endorsement of the neutral magistrate. Nonetheless, as in Tamura, suppression of the evidence of child pornography found on Hill’s seized zip disks was not an appropriate remedy. Similar to that case, the pornographic images from Hill’s zip disks that he sought to exclude as evidence at trial was "seized and retained lawfully because described in and therefore taken pursuant to the valid search warrant." The officers' wholesale seizure was flawed here because they failed to justify it to the magistrate, not because they acted unreasonably or improperly in executing the warrant. Because the officers were "motivated by considerations of practicality rather than by a desire to engage in indiscriminate 'fishing, 'we cannot say . . . that the officers so abused the warrant's authority that the otherwise valid warrant was transformed into a general one, thereby requiring all fruits to be suppressed."