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Name: People v. Stipo
Case #: B218512
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 2 DCA
Division: 6
Opinion Date: 05/16/2011

An internet subscriber has no expectation of privacy in information he provides to the internet service provider. A computer hacker entered a school district’s computer network and was able to access payroll and employee records, including social security numbers, birthdates, etc. A computer expert was able to identify the hacker’s IP address and a warrant was obtained requiring Time Warner to identify that subscriber. Complying, Time Warner identified the IP address as being that of appellant’s. A subsequent search of appellant’s residence revealed incriminating evidence. The trial court’s denial of appellant’s search motion was upheld by the appellate court. Under Smith v. Maryland (1979) 442 U.S. 735, the Supreme Court held that a person has no expectation of privacy in information he voluntarily turns over to a third party. Accordingly, subscriber information provided to an internet provider is not protected by the Fourth Amendment.
The court also held that the warrant was not invalid due to staleness. The question of staleness depends on the factors of the case and substantial delays do not render warrants stale where the defendant is not likely to dispose of the items sought. Here, the network intrusion was in January and the warrant was applied for on January 28. Because Time Warner did not provide appellant’s name until May, the warrant for appellant’s residence could not be obtained until then. Appellant continued to maintain his IP address and current subscription. Equipment is essential to a computer hacker. As appellant had no reason to believe he was a suspect, there was no reason for him to destroy his hard drives or other evidence. Thus, there was probable cause to believe that relevant evidence would be present when the search of his residence was conducted.