Category Archives: Ferrier Warnings

Definition of “Porn” Vague

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In State v. Padilla, the WA Supreme Court held that a defendant’s parole conditions prohibiting him from possessing or accessing pornographic materials was unconstitutionally vague because the accompanying definition of “pornographic materials” is vague and overbroad.

BACKGROUND FACTS

Mr. Padilla was convicted for communicating with a minor for immoral purposes. The court sentenced him to 75 days of confinement and 12 months of community custody, imposing multiple conditions.

Padilla challenged the condition prohibiting his possession and access to pornographic materials. The term “pornographic material’ was defined by Padilla’s Community Corrections Officer (CCO) as “images of sexual intercourse, simulated or real, masturbation, or the display of intimate body parts.”

 COURT’S ANALYSIS & CONCLUSIONS

The Court reasoned that a legal prohibition, such as a community custody condition, is
unconstitutionally vague if (1) it does not sufficiently define the proscribed conduct so an ordinary person can understand the prohibition or (2) it does not provide sufficiently ascertainable standards to protect against arbitrary enforcement.  Furthermore, a vague condition infringing on protected First Amendment speech can chill the exercise of those protected freedoms. A restriction implicating First Amendment rights demands a greater degree of specificity and must be reasonably necessary to accomplish the essential needs of the state and public order.

“Padilla notes that the prohibition against viewing depictions of simulated sex would unnecessarily encompass movies and television shows not created for the sole purpose of sexual gratification,” said the Court. “We agree.”

“Films such as Titanic and television shows such as Game of Thrones depict acts of simulated intercourse, but would not ordinarily be considered ‘pornographic material.’ We agree. The prohibition against viewing depictions of intimate body parts impermissibly extends to a variety of works of arts, books, advertisements, movies, and television shows.” See Jenkins v. Georgia, (the depiction of nudity alone is not enough to make material legally obscene).”

The Court further reasoned that, on its face, the plain language of the pornography condition and its relevant definition is ambiguous. In application, the definition does not provide adequate notice of what behaviors Padilla is prohibited from committing and also encompasses the prohibition of constitutionally protected speech. “But also, delegating the authority to determine the prohibition boundaries to an individual CCO creates a real danger that the prohibition on pornography may ultimately translate to a prohibition on whatever the CCO personally finds titillating,” said the Court.

“In the present case, Padilla’s sentencing condition and its definition similarly fails to adequately put him on notice of which materials are prohibited and leaves him vulnerable to arbitrary enforcement,” said the Court. “Therefore, the condition is unconstitutionally vague.”

With that, the WA Supreme Court reverse the Court of Appeals’ decision upholding the condition and remanded the issue back to the trial court for further definition of the term “pornographic materials” following a determination of whether the restriction is narrowly
tailored based on Padilla’s conviction.

Contact my office if you, a friend or family member is on parole and allegedly violating certain conditions of their community custody responsibilities. An experienced defense attorney could frame legal arguments showing that, similar to this case, the CCO might actually be enforcing rules and conditions which are too vague to be legal.

State v. Budd: Ferrier Warnings Improperly Given

Good decision. In State v. Budd, the WA Court of Appeals decided a law enforcement officer must properly deliver all three parts of the Ferrier warnings before entering a residence.

Some background on Ferrier warnings is necessary. In State v. Ferrier, 136 Wn.2d 103, 960 P.2d 927 (1998) the WA Supreme Court held that, before entering a citizen’s home without a warrant, a law enforcement officer must (1) ask the citizen for consent, (2) inform the citizen that he can revoke consent at any time and (3) notify the citizen that he can limit the scope of the entry into the home. If an officer fails to provide these Ferrier rights/warnings, then any evidence obtained from the search is “fruits of the poisonous search” and also subject to being suppressed.

Appellant Michael Allen Budd was convicted of Possession of Depictions of Minors Engaged in Sexually Explicit Conduct under RCW 9.68A.070. He contends that the trial court erred in its denial of his ER 3.6 motion to suppress evidence obtained in a warrantless search of his residence by the officers investigating the case. He argued the Ferrier warnings were insufficient.

Washington State Patrol’s Missing and Exploited Children Task Force  received an anonymous “cybertip” from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. The anonymous source declared that Michael Allen Budd communicated with young girls on Yahoo! Messenger and Windows Live Messenger, both free online chat services. The anonymous source stated that he or she had seen child pornography on Budd’s computer.

On March 11,2009, Detective Kim Holmes travelled to Ephrata to Mr. Budd’s home. In law enforcement, a “knock and talk” is an investigative technique where one or more police officers approaches a private residence, knocks on the door, and requests consent from the owner to search the residence. Law enforcement performs the “knock and talk” when criminal activity is suspected, but officers lack probable cause to obtain a search warrant.

Detective Kim and other officers made contact with Holmes at his home. Although many of the facts are in dispute, it appeared that Detective Kim did not properly discuss Ferrier warnings with Mr. Holmes.

The court reasoned that Detective Holmes’ police report lacked any mention of Holmes’ informing Budd that he had a right to decline consent to enter the home, limit the scope of the search, and revoke consent at any time. Finally, the report implied that Holmes misrepresented that a court would authorize a search warrant. Based on this, the Court of Appeals ruled that the detective did not voice all Ferrier warnings before entering the home, and that law enforcement officers MUST deliver all cautions before entering the residence. Consequently, the Court reversed the conviction and dismissed the case.

My opinion? I agree with this excerpt from the Court of Appeals:

Viewing child pornography is a hideous crime that robs children of innocence and scars them for life. Those who watch child pornography obsessively gamer gratification through violent acts on defenseless children. Catching one at the crime takes diligence since the viewer indulges in the privacy of his home, often by elaborate security measures on his computer. Thus, we reluctantly reverse the trial court.

Nevertheless, as judges, we pledged to uphold the constitution and the endearing rights protected by the constitution. Those engaged in hideous conduct are entitled to the protections afforded under our state and federal constitution including the right to be free of unlawful searches and seizures.

Well said.