Clara County Superior Court Superior Court No. C1483868 Hon.
Griffin M. J. Bonini Judge
Counsel for Plaintiff/Appellant: The People Xavier Becerra
Attorney General Gerald A. Engler Chief Assistant Attorney
General Jeffrey M. Laurence Senior Assistant Attorney General
Laurence K. Sullivan Supervising Deputy Attorney General
Bridget Billeter Deputy Attorney General Leif M. Dautch
Deputy Attorney General
Counsel for Defendant/Respondent: Kevin Nguyen Law Office of
Jeremy D. Blank Jeremy D. Blank
case concerns the scope of a warrant to search a property
based on probable cause that a computer on the property was
used in a crime.
identified an IP address for an Internet account sharing
child pornography online. Comcast identified the account
subscriber as Jennie Reynolds at 309 South 23rd Street in San
José. The police obtained a search warrant for the
residence, garages, and outbuildings at the address. While
searching Reynolds' house, the police discovered
defendant Kevin Nguyen was living in a separate residence
behind the house. The police then searched Nguyen's
residence and found a laptop with child pornography. The
trial court found the search overbroad and granted
Nguyen's motion to suppress.
Attorney General appeals. He contends the warrant expressly
authorized the search. He argues the warrant affidavit set
forth probable cause to search any residence on the property
because anyone on the property could have accessed
Reynolds' computer network wirelessly. Finally, the
Attorney General contends the police acted in good faith
reliance on the warrant.
the police lacked probable cause to search defendant's
residence because they had no basis to believe the suspect
network was accessed from defendant's residence. We
further hold the warrant did not expressly authorize the
search, and the police lacked good faith reliance on the
warrant. We will affirm the judgment.
Factual and Procedural Background
Facts of the Search
Sean Pierce of the San José Police Department
investigated child pornography on the Internet. Pierce
identified an IP address (Internet Protocol address) used by
a Comcast account sharing child pornography online. An IP
address is an identifier assigned to a device on a network,
such as a router, computer, or printer. The IP address allows
the device to be identified and located by other devices.
When a user connects to the Internet through a router, the
user's Internet service provider (e.g., Comcast) assigns
an IP address to the user's router.
informed Pierce that the account subscriber with the suspect
IP address was Jennie Reynolds at 309 South 23rd Street in
San José. Pierce searched a database and found three
names associated with that address: Jennie Reynolds, Joshua
Blankenship, and Kevin Nguyen.
searched for 309 South 23rd Street on Google Maps to get an
overhead “bird's eye” view of the property.
The overhead view revealed two distinct structures on the
lot: a house facing the street on the front of the lot, and a
separate L-shaped structure about 25 feet behind the front
house. The rear structure appeared to cover an area of about
1, 000 square feet spanning the width of the lot.
went to the address and viewed the property from the sidewalk
in front of the house. The house appeared to be a single
family residence. Pierce saw only one mailbox, one driveway,
and one set of numbers affixed to the front of the house
identifying it as “309.” The rear structure was
behind a fence at the end of the driveway. Pierce testified
that the only part of the structure he could see over the
fence was a garage door, leading him to believe the building
was a garage.
searched for wireless network signals in the area in front of
the house. He did not locate any “open” wireless
networks-i.e., networks unprotected by a password. He
detected multiple closed (password-protected) wireless
network signals, but he could not determine whether any of
the signals were connected to computers on the property. Nor
could he determine whether any of the signals were associated
with Reynolds' Comcast account. He did not know whether
there were any wireless routers on the property.
saw two cars parked on the property. He saw a car registered
to Reynolds parked on a cement area in front of the house. In
the driveway, he saw a black Lexus registered to Nguyen at
the Mountain View Police Department. The police discovered
Nguyen was a police officer for the Mountain View Police
obtained a warrant for a search of: “The residence
located at: 309 South 23rd Street in San Jose, CA described
as a single story single family residence.” The warrant
described the appearance of the front house as viewed from
the street. The warrant also authorized the search of
“any and all yards, garages, carports, outbuildings,
storage areas and sheds assigned to the above-described
supporting affidavit identified Jennie Reynolds as the
subscriber to the Comcast account with the suspect IP
address. The affidavit stated that “the person
responsible for the trading of child pornography from this
residence can be anyone with access to the internet signal
associated with this residence.” Neither the warrant
nor the affidavit mentioned Nguyen. Pierce testified that at
the time he sought the warrant he did not know Nguyen lived
in the rear residence, and he had no information on the
relationship between Nguyen, Reynolds, and Blankenship.
before police executed the search warrant, they notified the
Mountain View Police Department of the impending search of
Nguyen's residence. On the day of the search, San
José police officers surreptitiously followed Nguyen
driving from the property at 309 South 23rd Street to the
Mountain View Police Department. When Nguyen arrived at work
to report for duty, two Mountain View police ...