A man in Royalston was recently arrested after imagery involving child sex abuse was traced over the wifi of the Veterans Affairs Medical Center. The man was arrested after investigators claimed that he distributed the images over the medical center’s wifi, which can be used by the public.
The man was charged with one count of possessing child pornography. Following arraignment, the man was held pending a detention hearing. The charging documents for the case identified the IP address of a device distributing child sex abuse content through peer-to-peer communications and decided that the device was utilizing the public wifi available at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center, which is located on Main Street in Leeds. Additional surveillance determined that the man was both the owner and user of the device in question.
A search of the suspect’s residence was later performed. A laptop, a cell phone, and an external hard drive at the residence were all determined to contain child sex abuse imagery.
The Function of IP Addresses
Any technological equipment that accesses the internet has an Internet Protocol (IP) address. Some IP providers rely on static IP addresses that remain the same every time you connect to the internet on the device, while devices utilize dynamic IP addresses that change each time you access the internet on the device. Websites that a person visits record that individual’s IP address as well as the time of the visit. Similarly, internet service providers (ISPs) retain a log of internet activity. Even if your equipment has a dynamic IP address, the ISP holds onto a record of IP addresses assigned to you.
IP Addresses are Not Identifiable Features
Judges have routinely stated that IP addresses cannot be utilized to identify a person who has committed a criminal offense. IP addresses are not considered the same as social security numbers or physical things like fingerprints. Instead, IP addresses are better thought of like zip codes. IP addresses connect equipment to a group of people. Furthermore, people who share a hotspot often share IP addresses.
Tracking IP addresses connected with an individual over time can provide law enforcement with a detailed description of a person’s whereabouts, however. In various situations, IP addresses do not personally identify anything. For example, this is often the case when an IP address connects to dozens of computers at public locations like universities or coffee shops. In these situations, IP addresses are often best thought of as clues.
As a result, IP addresses do not equate to probable cause that a person has committed a criminal offense. Instead, search warrants executed solely based on an IP address have a substantial likelihood of wasting a law enforcement officer’s time as well as the resources of that agency.
Contact a Sex Crimes Defense Lawyer
If you or a loved one has been charged with a sex crime in Massachusetts, you should not hesitate to obtain the assistance of a skilled defense lawyer. Contact attorney Edward R Molari today to schedule a free case evaluation.