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People v. Dhyne.

2022 COA 122. No. 20CA1565. Fourth Amendment—Search Warrant—Multiple Occupancy Structures—Common Use or Occupation Exception.

October 20, 2022

A detective discovered that child pornography was being downloaded to an Internet Protocol (IP) address. The officer discovered that the subscriber’s son, B.C., lived with the subscriber and was a registered sex offender. Based on this information, the officer obtained a search warrant. When officers went to the subscriber’s house to execute the warrant, they encountered Dhyne emerging from the basement. Dhyne told the officers that he rented the basement apartment and shared Internet access with the subscriber. Police searched the premises, including the apartment, and seized several computers, including a laptop that Dhyne admitted was his property. A subsequent search of Dhyne’s computer revealed sexually exploitative material involving children. Dhyne was charged with two counts of sexual exploitation of a child. He moved pretrial to suppress the material found on his computer. The district court denied the motion. Dhyne also filed a notice of intent to introduce alternate suspect evidence related to B.C. The court ruled that the evidence about B.C. was not admissible. Dhyne was found guilty as charged.

On appeal, Dhyne argued that the district court erred by denying his motion to suppress because it misapplied the inevitable discovery exception to the exclusionary rule. Where police seek a warrant to search a particular unit in a multiunit building, the Fourth Amendment generally requires the warrant to sufficiently describe the subunit to be searched. But if the officers did not know that the search area contained separate units until after the search began, a single warrant describing the entire premises is valid and will justify a search of the entire premises. Here, when police obtained the search warrant, they believed that the house was a single-family residence, and the place authorized to be searched was any area within the subscriber’s physical address from which the IP address could be accessed. Because Dhyne told police that he shared the IP address associated with the physical address identified in the warrant, his residence fell within its scope. Accordingly, the apartment search was authorized by the warrant, and the district court did not err.

Dhyne also argued that the district court violated his right to present a defense by denying his request to introduce evidence that B.C. was an alternate suspect. He maintained that a sufficient nexus existed between B.C. and the charged crimes to make this evidence relevant because it was reasonable to assume that B.C., as the subscriber’s son, could have accessed Dhyne’s computer and downloaded child pornography. However, Dhyne failed to present evidence linking B.C. to the charged offenses, so these assumptions are speculative and insufficient to make an alternate suspect connection. Accordingly, the alternate suspect evidence was properly excluded.

Dhyne further contended that the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions. Here, the evidence included a laptop containing at least one video and more than 20 images that the parties stipulated were sexually exploitative, and at least 241 files that appeared to be child pornography. Further, an expert witness testified that the sexually exploitative video on the computer was consistent with a large amount of data and artifacts found at other locations on the computer and showed a pattern of interest in files of that type. Therefore, there was sufficient evidence to allow the fact finder to reasonably infer from Dhyne’s actions and the surrounding circumstances that he knowingly possessed sexually exploitative material.

The judgment was affirmed.

Official Colorado Court of Appeals proceedings can be found at the Colorado Court of Appeals website.

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