WA: Search of hard drive by Texas police for videos made in Washington governed by 4A, not Washington law

Defendant had voyeur videos of a young girl on a hard drive that he ended up having a sexual relationship with after she turned 18. He’d moved from Washington to Texas with the military in between those times and took the videos with him. She followed. After their relationship soured, he gave her the videos, and she gave them to police in Texas. The videos were admissible in Washington even if the search by Texas authorities would have violated Washington law because there was nothing to deter in Texas. This is a version of the “silver platter doctrine.” State v. Martinez, 2018 Wash. App. LEXIS 85 (Jan. 16, 2018):

¶17 Martinez contends that the trial court should have suppressed evidence found on the mirror image hard drive because WSP searched it without a warrant. When an appellate court reviews the trial court’s decision on a suppression motion, it determines whether substantial evidence supports any challenged findings of fact and whether the findings of fact support the trial court’s conclusions of law. An appellate court treats the trial court’s unchallenged findings of fact as true. Martinez challenges only the trial court’s conclusions of law, which this court reviews de novo.

¶18 The Fourth Amendment guarantees “[t]he right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.” If a government action intrudes upon an individual’s “reasonable expectation of privacy,” a search occurs under the Fourth Amendment. The Washington Constitution provides greater protection of a person’s privacy rights than does the Fourth Amendment. Article 1, section 7 of the Washington Constitution states, “No person shall be disturbed in his private affairs, or his home invaded, without authority of law.” Article 1, section 7 “focuses on those privacy interests which citizens of this state have held, and should be entitled to hold, safe from governmental trespass absent a warrant.”

¶19 Under the silver platter doctrine, however, evidence lawfully obtained under the laws of another jurisdiction is admissible in Washington courts even if the manner the evidence was obtained would violate Washington law. “Evidence is admissible under this doctrine when (1) the foreign jurisdiction lawfully obtained evidence and (2) the forum state’s officers did not act as agents or cooperate or assist the foreign jurisdiction.” Martinez does not dispute that Texas lawfully obtained the hard drive. And he does not challenge the trial court’s findings that “WSP had no involvement in obtaining or serving the Texas warrant” and “Texas police did not act as agents of WSP when they obtained or served the warrant.” Thus, under the silver platter doctrine, the evidence is admissible.

¶20 Martinez contends that the silver platter doctrine does not apply here because the Texas officers did not conduct any search that would be unlawful in Washington. But Martinez mistakenly asserts that this doctrine requires that the search be unlawful in Washington. The doctrine requires that the State show only two things: (1) the search was lawful in Texas and (2) the Washington officers did not act as agents for Texas or cooperate or assist Texas in any way. Because the State proved this, the doctrine applies.

This entry was posted in Conflict of laws. Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.