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Name: People v. Wilkinson
Case #: C054228
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 3 DCA
Opinion Date: 06/18/2008

Denial of suppression motion reversed where trial court erred in determining that no illegal search had occurred. Wilkinson and Schultze shared an apartment and each had their own room. Schultze had a computer with a webcam in her room. Her boyfriend, Sadler, discovered that Wilkinson had been using the webcam to make videos of Sadler and Schultze in bed. Sadler summoned police, who asked for consent to enter Wilkinson’s room. Wilkinson refused, and police told Sadler they could not enter the room. Believing police told him he could enter Wilkinson’s room, Sadler went into the room looking for evidence. He viewed images of himself and Schultze naked and/or engaging in sexual conduct and took all the discs he could find. Sadler told police what he had found, and police confronted Wilkinson, who made several statements and signed a consent to search his room. The trial court denied Wilkinson’s motion to suppress the evidence, concluding that Sadler was not an agent of police when he entered Wilkinson’s room. The appellate court found that the trial court erred in determining that no illegal search occurred. Sadler’s “search” of Wilkinson’s room was a private search that did not implicate the Fourth Amendment. The officer’s viewing of the images Sadler had already seen did not exceed the scope of the private search. However, the opening and viewing of images on additional discs by the officers, which Sadler had not previously viewed, constituted warrantless governmental searches implicating the Fourth Amendment. The issues of whether the Fourth Amendment violations tainted the subsequent confession and consent to search was not reached by the trial court because it ruled that no violation had occurred. Therefore, reversal and remand were required for further proceedings.