Cyber Sex Crimes Attorney

           Attorney Robert H. Humphrey was prominently featured in a recent article in Rhode Island Lawyers Weekly regarding the use of an administrative subpoena to obtain an Internet subscriber’s information.  As a Rhode Island criminal defense attorney at the forefront of the emerging field of cyber sex crimes, Attorney Humphrey was asked to analyze Superior Court Judge Rodgers’s holding in the case of State v. Rodriguez.

            Judge Rodgers’s decision addressed the lawfulness of an administrative subpoena provide to Verizon seeking the name and address of a subscriber assigned to a specific IP address.  The specific IP address had alleged been involved in obtaining child pornography.  After obtaining the subscriber’s information, members of the Rhode Island Internet Crimes Against Children (“ICAC”) Task Force requested a search warrant for any and all computers and electronic devices related to child pornography located in the home shared by the defendant, his wife and children.

            Defense counsel moved to suppress any statements and evidence obtained during the execution of the search warrant. The “defendant asserted broad privacy and technological arguments in an effort to persuade the Court to increase Fourth Amendment safeguards under the Rhode Island Constitution.”  However, Judge Rodgers focused on the more narrow question of whether the defendant’s Fourth Amendment rights were violated by the use of an administrative subpoena to obtain subscriber information.

            The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution provides that citizens have the “right to be secured in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against any unreasonable searches and seizures.” In the Rodriguez case, the Court found that the defendant had no reasonable expectation of privacy because of Verizon’s privacy policy and the defendant’s use of file sharing software.  Verizon’s privacy policy clearly states that if a subscriber uses their services for the purposes of criminal activity, including child pornography, then the service agreement is void and Verizon can and will report the activity to law enforcement.  Also, if a subpoena is received from Verizon, it will disclose subscriber information to law enforcement.  Next, the defendant had no reasonable expectation of privacy because of his use of peer-to-peer file sharing software.  The Court went on to state that “when a person uses these types of file-sharing services it is akin to ‘leaving one’s documents in a box marked ‘free’ on a business street.’”

            Although the defendant’s attorneys did not prevail in their motion to suppress all statements and evidence obtained pursuant to the search warrant, they made a valiant effort.  Attorney Humphrey is quoted as stating “the defendant’s lawyers were trying to expand fundamental privacy rights in the digital age.  It is only through this type of work that the law eventually changes.  But as we see, the Judge applied the law that exists now.”

            If you or a family member have been charged with a cyber crime, including but not limited to possession of child pornography, transferring of child pornography or enticement of a child, please contact the Law Offices of Robert H. Humphrey at (401) 816-5862. 

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