MAN CONVICTED OF ROBBERY AFTER CELL PHONE CALLS HIM OUT
The Superior Court has recently held that a Defendant was not entitled to suppression of the wireless network data that was lawfully obtained by campus police after his cell phone automatically logged into a campus WI-FI network, thereby placing him at the scene and identifying him as a suspect in a robbery.
Alkiohn Dunkins was convicted of Robbery, Conspiracy to Commit Robbery, Receiving Stolen Property, and Simple Assault as a result of a robbery that occurred on the campus of Moravian College.
After two students were robbed in their dorm room, campus police requested that Moravian’s Director of Systems Engineering analyze its wireless network (WiFi) data to compile a list of the students logged on to the network near the wireless access point in the dormitory building where the robbery occurred. Campus officials discovered, at the time of the robbery, there were only three individuals logged onto the campus WiFi at that location that did not reside in that building. Two of the three WiFi users were female. The male user was Dunkins, who was also a Moravian student.
Dunkins was subsequently arrested, tried and convicted of the above offenses. He thereafter filed an appeal arguing, in part, that the trial court erred in refusing to suppress the wireless internet connection records that were obtained by campus police at Moravian College in a warrantless search. Specifically, he claimed that officers invaded his right to privacy in his physical movements through cell site location information (CSLI).
Prior to the robbery in this case, Dunkins “signed a ‘Computing Resources’ policy indicating that he understood that, in exchange for the privilege of accessing Moravian’s WiFi network, Moravian had the right to collect, inspect, and share internet data transmitted over institutional assets or connections made through institutional assets. The policy explicitly stated that ‘logging into or otherwise connecting to the campus network implies acceptance of this Moravian … Policy.’”
The Superior Court found that Dunkins specifically consented to Moravian’s internet use policy, which “clearly stated that individuals who choose to utilize the campus computer system and wireless network provide authorization for the college to collect and disclose all internet data composed, transmitted, or received through the campus computer system and its network connections.”
The Superior Court also distinguished Dunkin’s case from the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Carpenter v. U.S., ___U.S.___, 138 S.Ct. 2206 (U.S. June 22, 2018), noting that Carpenter involved a specific request for a compilation of an individual’s historical CSLI and the case at issue was more of a general request for “tower dump” information or similar data from a particular cell tower or wireless access point for a particular time. To put a finer point on it, “CSLI tracks an individual’s movements at all times of the day regardless of where he travels, but the WiFi data in this case is only collected when an individual logs onto the campus wireless network and is present on the Moravian campus.”
The appellate court also noted past decisions which held that “if a person is aware of, or freely grants to a third party, potential access to his computer contents, he has knowingly exposed the contents of his computer to the public and has lost any reasonable expectation of privacy in those contents.”
Accordingly, the Superior Court found that Dunkins “could not reasonably argue that he was subjected to an illegal warrantless search under the Fourth Amendment when he specifically consented to Moravian’s internet use policy, which clearly stated that individuals who choose to utilize the campus computer system and wireless network provide authorization for the college to collect and disclose all internet data composed, transmitted, or received through the campus computer system and its network connections.”
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