Technological enhancements give police officers stronger tools to investigate Florida crimes, track suspects and gather evidence. They also raise new questions about protections against unlawful searches and seizures, as a recent case out of Florida’s Second District Court of Appeal makes clear.
Defendant was charged with a wide variety of Florida criminal offenses, including sexual battery and possession of child pornography, following an investigation by the Polk County Sheriff’s Office. Police officers traced an internet protocol address used to download child pornography to a home in the county. When they searched the home, the officers found that none of the computers in the house that were connected to a home Wi-Fi network had been used to download illicit materials.
They also noticed that the Wi-Fi network wasn’t protected, and could therefore potentially be accessed by others outside of the home. So the cops, with the homeowner’s permission, set up a computer in the home that would allow them to remotely access and monitor the Wi-Fi network. They found the local IP address and a separate MAC address for a computer that was accessing the Wi-Fi network and using it to download pornography. The officers then used a Yagi antenna—a highly directional and shortwave antenna—to determine that the computer was inside Defendant’s motorhome. The officers obtained a warrant to search the home, where they located the computer. Defendant was convicted and sentenced to consecutive life sentences.