Do not lend your Wi-Fi to sex offenders

UNITED STATES V. SANDELL2022 WL 619156 (8th Cir. 2022)

Mark Sandell moved to a new area and asked his neighbors, who felt like neighborhoods, to use their Wi-Fi so he could access the Internet and register as a sex offender. For its regular readers Sword, that would be an “indication”. The neighbors agreed. Their generosity was rewarded by investigators knocking on their door, interrogating them and searching their home. After questioning the neighbors and finding no smuggling in their home, police dismissed the neighbors as suspects. One resident then told police they shared the Wi-Fi password with Sandell.

The officers went next door to talk to Sandel. They knocked, Sandell responded, and police identified themselves, asking Sandell to come out as they made a protective sweep of the House. As soon as they found out that no one else was home, the police asked Sandell where he would like to speak. He said he preferred to speak in his living room. The police then followed Sandell to his living room and explained that they were trying to obtain a research warrant for Sandell’s house based on information from his neighbors. An officer informed Sandell that he had not been arrested and that he was not obliged to speak to them. Sandell refused to consent to a search of the home.

The officers reminded Sandel again that he was not obliged to speak to them and told him that he was free to leave. They told him that if he chose to drive, they would ask for his consent to look for his car. Sandell was also told that they had to monitor his movements inside the house to ensure that Sandell did not have access to any weapons or violate evidence. Sandell left his dog outside, took his medication, made coffee, used the toilet and got his employee’s phone number under control from a separate floor of the house as police watched.

During the conversation during Sandell’s moves around the house, he admitted to downloading child pornography. He voluntarily flipped a camera and pointed his thumb, saying he was likely facing up to 15 years in prison. Sandell would not talk about his previous conviction for a similar crime. Police eventually received a search warrant and collected Sandell’s laptop, thumb drives and DVDs. According to the investigation, Sandell was accused of distributing, receiving and possessing child pornography.

Sandell asked the court to silence the statements made at his home. He claimed that the police interrogated him without providing a Miranda warning. The appellate court refused to silence his statements and the appellate court upheld.

The Miranda the rule applies when it exists both detention and interrogation (Miranda v. Arizona384 US 436 (1966)). The court ruled that Sandell was not in custody. Thus, the officers did not need to advise Sandel Miranda rights. Officers informed Sandell several times that he had not been arrested, that he was free to leave, and that he was not obliged to speak to them. Instead, he spoke voluntarily to the officers, who did not use forceful hands or deceptive tactics. Sandell was not arrested immediately and there were not so many officers (only four) in the house to set up a in fact arrest.

Three things to remove from this case: First, remember whenever possible speak nicely, think bad. The friendly tone of the officers and the non-coercive search techniques were the main factor here. Second, be careful when sharing your Wi-Fi password. It can lead to a search warrant in your home. Third, Sandell proves once again: We catch the idiots.

NEXT: Speak well, think badly, grab child pornography, secure your belief

Leave a Comment