Category: Pornography

Double Jeopardy and Private Searches – “He got weed, He got weed”

Double Jeopardy stands for the principle that a person can’t be convicted for the same crime twice. Sometimes laws are created that involve the exact same action. A conviction for both crimes can have an effect on sentencing and how many years someone may spend in prison.

Below is a case that discusses what the courts look to when considering Double Jeopardy. This case also has a good discussion on when the right to invoke counsel has taken place and when Miranda is necessary.

Miranda is not required for statements taken from people not in custody. In determining custody status, the Courts will look to the objective facts and not the subjective intent of the officers.

Finally, this case also discusses when the 4th Amendment of the Constitution applies for searches and why a search by a private party not acting on the behalf of the government is not governed by the 4th Amendment of the Constitution.

When reading this case, I couldn’t help but think of the Chris Rock video where he plays a man who upsets his girlfriend in the car. When the officers pull them over, the woman starts yelling, “he got weed, he got weed”

United States v. Randall Muhlenbruch
App. from S.D. Iowa


Factual Summary:

Defendant Muhlenbruch was assaulted by his wife. The wife was ordered to move out of the apartment, but she still stayed. The then Wife claimed she found Child Pornography on her husband’s computer. The wife claims when she confronted Defendant Muhlenbruch he agreed to delete the images but she then convinced him not to do so. When Defendant Muhlenbruch left the home to run errands, the wife had a friend come to the home and copy the Child Pornograpy files onto a CD. The wife’s friend then took the images to the police.

The officers viewed the images and prepared a search warrant. Officers conducted surveillance on the apartment. When Defendant Muhlenbruch and his wife showed up, officers approached Defendant Muhlenbruch. Defendant Muhlenbruch was not placed under arrest but was taken to the police station in the back of a patrol car for questioning. The wife told officers she found the Child Pornography and had friend make copies of it to turn over to the police.

Defendant Muhlenbruch was interrogated and the interrogation was recorded on DVD. Officers said he was free to leave. Defendant Muhlenbruch asked if he needed an attorney. Offices said that was up to him. Muhlenbruch then confessed. After the confession, Defendant Muhlenbruch again asked if he should have an attorney. Finally, Defendant Muhlenbruch asked for a lawyer.

The facts are clear that Defendant Muhlenbruch was not advised of his Miranda rights before his statement was taken. Defendant Muhlenbruch eventually consented to the search of his computer as well. Defendant Muhlenbruch was not arrested and was taken back home.

Defendant Muhlenbruch was indicted by a Grand Jury. Defendant Muhlenbruch filed motions to suppress his statements and the evidence obtained during search of his apartment and the computers hard drive.

The Federal District Court denied the motions. The Federal District Court sentenced Defendant Muhlenbruch to two concurrent 120 month. sentences after jury verdict of guilty on knowingly receiving Child Pornography and knowingly possession Child Pornography.


(1) Motion to Suppress Statements and Evidence
a. Defendant Muhlenbruch asserts that his statements should be suppressed because he was nott advised of his Miranda rights and the statements were involuntary.

b. The Federeal 8th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled:

1. Miranda warnings are required when interrogation is initiated by officers after a person has been taken into custody or otherwise deprived of his freedom of action in any significant way.

2. Custody is determined under totality of circumstances. The Court looks to whether a reasonable person in his position would consider his freedom of movement restricted to the degree associated with formal arrest.

3. The focus of the analysis is on the objective circumstances, not the subjective opinions or determinations of the officers.

4. The factors to consider are:

a. whether the suspect was informed he was free to
leave and answering was voluntary;

b. whether the suspect possessed freedom of movement;

c. whether the suspect initiated contact or voluntarily
acquiesced to the statement;

d. whether the strong arm tactics or strategies were
employed by law enforcement;

e. whether the atmosphere of the interview was police dominated;

f. whether the suspect was placed under arrest at end
of questioning.

5. In this case the Federal Court of Appeals Ruled that the Defendant was not in custody.

a. Since he was not in custody there is no need to
provide Miranda and no need to evaluate argument that officers denied his unambiguous request for counsel.

b. Regarding the voluntary nature of his statement, the Federal Court of Appeals 8th Circuit said:
1. A conviction based on involuntary confession, obtained through police coercion violates Due Process and any such conviction must be overturned.

2. A statement is considered involuntary if it was extracted by threats, violence, or express or implied promises sufficient to overbear the Defendant’s will and critically impair his capacity for self-determination.

3. The Court will look at the totality of the ircumstances and the conduct of the officers and characteristics of the accused.

4. In this case, The Federal Court of Appeals 8th Circuit ruled that the confession was voluntary.

a. there was no indication he was sleep deprived or under influence of alcohol thus making him more susceptible to coercion.

6. Regarding the motion to suppress the evidence found on the Computer, the Federal Court of Appeals 8th Circuit ruled-

A . A search by a private citizen is not subject to the
strictures of the 4th Amendment of the Constitution unless the private citizen is acting as a government agent.

B. In order for a citizen to be considered a government agent, the Court looks to:

a. whether the gov’t had knowledge of and
acquiesced in the search;

b. whether the citizen intended to assist law
enforcement to further his own purposes; and

c. whether the citizen acted at the gov’t’s request.

C. In this case, the wife did her own independent investigation and her friend copied the files at the request of the wife, not law enforcement. Therefore, there was no government involvement in the initial search and the 4th Amendment of the Constiution does not apply.

7. The Court then ruled on Double Jeopardy for Possession and Receipt conviction for same images.

a. The 8th Circuit Federal Court of Appeals said:

1. In order to establish a violation of the clause, the Defendant must show he was convicted of two offenses that are in law and fact the same offense.

2. if the same act or transaction constitutes a violation of two distinct statutory provisions, the test to be applied to determine whether there are two offense or only one is whether each provision
requires a proof of a fact which the other does not.

3. For the analysis, the Court looked to Ball v. U.S. 470 U.S. 856 (1985).

a. The Court determined that Congress did not intend to
punish felons for both possessing and receiving the same firearm under different statutes because proof of illegal receipt of a firearm necessarily includes proof of illegal possession of that weapon.

b. The Federal Court of Appeals in the 9th Circuit in the case of U.S. v. Schales 546 F.3d 965, determined possession of Child Pornography is lesser included offense of receipt of Child Pornography.

4. The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed that that proof of receiving child pornography necessarily includes that of receiving child pornography and therefore the multiple convictions violate double jeopardy.