Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals - Published Opinions

Friday, September 26, 2014

Mathis: Search of 2011 cellphone valid even if based on 2004 calls

In U.S. v. Mathis, No. 13-13109 (Sept. 24, 2014), the Court affirmed convictions of enticing a minor to engage in sexual activity, and the 480-month sentence. The Court rejected the argument that the search of Mathis’ cellphone violated his Fourth Amendment rights because the affidavit submitted in support misleadingly claimed that one could recover information from a different cellphone in 2011 evidence of a crime committed in 2004. The affidavit noted that Mathis had maintained the same phone number since 2004, and that law enforcement reasonably believed that the cell phone would contain incriminating information. Alternatively, the Court found that the police relied in good faith on the search warrant. The Court also rejected the argument that a second search of the cellphone was invalid because it occurred eight months after the expiration of the warrant’s ten-day search period. The Court noted that a search conducted after a warrant’s expiration date does not necessarily require suppression. The Court rejected the argument that the Confrontation Clause was violated when the district court admitted in evidence a non-testifying victim’s text messages. The text messages were not statements to government officers, and were not made under circumstances that would lead an objective witness reasonably to believe that they would be available for use at a later trial. Turning to sentencing, the Court rejected the argument that the U.S.S.G. § 2G2.1(b)(6) enhancement for an offense involving a computer did not apply because Mathis merely used a cellphone. Deciding an issue of first impression, the Court held that the electronic high speed data processing of a cellphone meets the definition of a computer. The Court also rejected Mathis’s argument that a prior Florida conviction for lewd or lascivious conduct with a minor did not qualify as the basis for a aggravating sentence enhancement, because the offense did not require actual touching. The court noted that 18 U.S.C. § 2251(e) merely requires a prior offense “relating to” sexual abuse of a minor.