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Name: U.S. v. Monghur
Case #: 08-10351
Court: US Court of Appeals
District 9 Cir
Opinion Date: 12/04/2009
Summary

An inmate’s encrypted reference to a container in a monitored jail call does not relinquish all privacy rights for the item referenced, unless the inmate also volunteers that it contains contraband. Appellant, who was in jail facing criminal charges, called a friend on a monitored phone line and asked the friend to come get an apartment key to retrieve “the thing” he placed “in the green” in his bedroom closet. After listening to the call, police obtained consent from the co-occupant to search the apartment, but they did not obtain a warrant. They found a gun inside green opaque container in appellant’s closet. The trial court denied appellant’s motion to suppress finding that he relinquished his expectation of privacy in the container by talking about it in a monitored jail call. The appellate court reversed, finding nothing about the phone call overheard by law enforcement operated as a waiver of an expectation of privacy in a container hidden elsewhere. Appellant never explicitly identified the contraband at issue, or even the container itself. In fact, use of coded language shows appellant was trying to preserve privacy, not relinquish it. While the contents of the phone call and the subsequent discovery of a container fitting the description established probable cause, police should have obtained a warrant before searching it.