Tuesday, November 27, 2012

It's not often the confession precedes the investigation.

Dominick Pelletier answered a help-wanted ad for the FBI and after sailing through the interview process, sat down for the polygraph. He didn't do so well, but he had a good explanation: all the kiddie porn on his home computer was making him uncomfortable. The FBI, known for its willingness to help a brother out, sent agents over to his house with a warrant to clear up any misunderstanding. One computer scan and 600 images later, Pelletier found out that not getting the FBI gig was the least of his worries. He was charged in federal court with possession of child pornography.

Pelletier's attorney moved to suppress the evidence because the FBI guys failed to Mirandize Pelletier before he sat down for the pre-employment polygraph. The district judge denied the motion so Pelletier appealed to the Seventh Circuit. The Court of Appeals, not surprisingly, found that Miranda warnings are not required during job interviews with law enforcement.

Judge Kanne's introduction to the opinion is classic:

Federal investigative agents will tell you that some cases are hard to solve. Some cases require years of effort—chasing down false leads and reigning in flighty witnesses. Others require painstaking scientific analysis, or weeks of poring over financial records for a hidden clue. And some cases are never solved at all—the right witness never comes forward, the right lead never pans out, or the right clue never turns up.

This is not one of those cases. The defendant, Dominick Pelletier, admitted during a job interview with the FBI that he had pornographic pictures of children on his home computer. Instead of joining the FBI's vaunted ranks, Pelletier was indicted for one count of possession of child pornography. After the district court denied two of his motions to suppress, Pelletier entered a conditional guilty plea and reserved the right to appeal the denial of the suppression motions. Finding no error, we affirm.


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