W.D.N.Y.: Violations of state law on jurisdiction of investigative subpoenas not a federal issue

Defendant’s motion to reopen his suppression hearing to explore a state law claim on jurisdiction of subpoenas is denied because it has no relevance to the federal investigation. One of his issues is jurisdiction: which county had jurisdiction over the case for the initial subpoenas? State jurisdiction is not a federal concern. Even if there was some greater issue of state law violation, it might justify state action, but not action in this court. The subpoena to the AAG in charge of cybercrimes investigations in the AG’s office is not appropriate. United States v. Stroke, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 62701 (W.D. N.Y. April 25, 2017):

The Court begins its assessment of a possible reopening with a general look at how violations of state law interact with the Fourth Amendment. The Fourth Amendment of course protects “[t]he right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.” U.S. Const. amend. IV. “The touchstone of our analysis under the Fourth Amendment is always the reasonableness in all the circumstances of the particular governmental invasion of a citizen’s personal security. Reasonableness, of course, depends on a balance between the public interest and the individual’s right to personal security free from arbitrary interference by law officers.” Pennsylvania v. Mimms, 434 U.S. 106, 108-09, 98 S. Ct. 330, 54 L. Ed. 2d 331 (1977) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). Any analysis of personal security and arbitrary interference, though, has to occur from a federal perspective. The need for a federal perspective is met most easily when defendants allege that federal law enforcement agents violated federal statutes or federal procedural rules. Criminal cases can implicate the Fourth Amendment also when state law enforcement agents obtain evidence in ways that would not have been available to federal agents. This principle emerged when the Supreme Court abolished the so-called “silver platter” rule. See Elkins v. United States, 364 U.S. 206, 223, 80 S. Ct. 1437, 4 L. Ed. 2d 1669 (1960) (“[E]vidence obtained by state officers during a search which, if conducted by federal officers, would have violated the defendant’s immunity from unreasonable searches and seizures under the Fourth Amendment is inadmissible over the defendant’s timely objection in a federal criminal trial.”); see also, e.g., United States v. Sotomayor, 592 F.2d 1219, 1223 (2d Cir. 1979) (“There is an impressive line of authority to the effect that, in the area of search and seizure, it is federal law which controls the admissibility of evidence in a federal trial, even where the evidence has been obtained by state officers who may have violated state law.”) (citations omitted). In contrast, the scope of the Fourth Amendment does not include violations of state law in themselves. See Virginia v. Moore, 553 U.S. 164, 178, 128 S. Ct. 1598, 170 L. Ed. 2d 559 (2008) (“[I]t is not the province of the Fourth Amendment to enforce state law. That Amendment does not require the exclusion of evidence obtained from a constitutionally permissible arrest.”). The Fourth Amendment does not reach pure state-law violations partly because states are free to add protections to the federal constitutional minimum, and “when States go above the Fourth Amendment minimum, the Constitution’s protections concerning search and seizure remain the same.” Id. at 173; see also California v. Greenwood, 486 U.S. 35, 43, 108 S. Ct. 1625, 100 L. Ed. 2d 30 (1988) (“We have never intimated, however, that whether or not a search is reasonable within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment depends on the law of the particular State in which the search occurs.”); United States v. Bernacet, 724 F.3d 269, 277 (2d Cir. 2013) (citations omitted).

The general principles outlined above have been applied numerous times, including in scenarios that share some traits with Stroke’s situation. To the extent that Stroke has protested about geography—that is, the involvement of the grand jury from the Albany County and not Erie County—geographical issues arising under state law by themselves do not implicate the Fourth Amendment. …

The legal reason that makes Snyder’s testimony unnecessary concerns the cases that the Court cited above. Suppose, in the most favorable possible scenario for Stroke, that Snyder testified and uncovered widespread, routine, indiscriminate abuse of grand jury subpoenas at the Attorney General’s office in Albany. Those details might prompt outrage, internal investigations, and disciplinary action at the state level. Stroke possibly might consider civil litigation at the state level. Those details, however, would mean nothing to Stroke’s federal case because they would not demonstrate that Folster lacked the necessary level of suspicion to conduct the “knock and talk” interview or to seize the laptop. Stroke himself already has hinted at his real reason for wanting to cross-examine Snyder: He thinks that she is criminally liable for abusing the state grand-jury process and that, upon testifying, she needs to “be cautioned about her right against self incrimination.” (Dkt. No. 124 at 5.) The Court does not need to comment on Stroke’s view of Snyder except to reiterate its focus on the Fourth Amendment. Folster either did or did not have the requisite level of suspicion for the “knock and talk” interview and the seizure of the laptop as of January 25, 2011.

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