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US v Cote

3-8-2013 Military Court:

US v Cote
Crim. App. No. 37745

Judge ERDMANN delivered the opinion of the court. Contrary to his pleas, Airman Adam Cote was convicted by a general court-martial with members of one specification of possessing child pornography, in violation of Article 134, Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), 10 U.S.C. § 934 (2006). He was sentenced to a bad-conduct discharge, confinement for twelve months, forfeiture of all pay and allowances, and reduction to E-1. The convening authority approved the adjudged sentence except for the forfeitures. The United States Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals (CCA) affirmed the findings and the sentence. United States v. Cote, No. ACM 37745, 2012 CCA LEXIS 106, at *17, 2012 WL 1058985, at *6. (A.F. Ct. Crim. App. Mar. 28, 2012).

While “technical” or “de minimis” violations of a search warrant’s terms do not warrant suppression of evidence, United States v. Sims, 428 F.3d 945, 955 (10th Cir. 2005), generally “the search and seizure conducted under a warrant must conform to the warrant or some well—recognized exception.” United States v. Upham, 168 F.3d 532, 536 (1st Cir. 1999) (citing Marron v. United States, 275 U.S. 192, 196-97 (1927)).

We granted review to determine whether a search conducted in violation of a search warrant’s post-seizure time limitation renders the search unreasonable.1 We conclude that under the circumstances of this case, the Government’s violation of the warrant’s time limits for conducting an off-site search of the seized electronic device constituted more than a “de minimis” violation of the warrant and resulted in an unreasonable search.

We therefore reverse the decision of the CCA.

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