United States v. Brixen, No. 18-1636 (7th Cir. 2018)Annotate this Case
Snapchat user “Snappyschrader” identified himself as a 31-year-old male and agreed to assist a 14-year-old female in purchasing undergarments. He was actually communicating with Altoona Detective Baumgarten. After agreeing to meet at a supermarket, officers identified “Snappyschrader,” actually, Brixen, arrested him, and seized his phone. To illustrate to Brixen that he had been communicating with an undercover detective, Baumgarten sent a message to Brixen’s phone from the undercover Snapchat account. Brixen witnessed the notification appear on his phone screen. Brixen moved to suppress this evidence arguing it constituted an unreasonable search of his cell phone. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the denial of the motion, noting that Brixen conceded that evidence recovered under a subsequent search warrant remains admissible because even after excision of the tainted evidence from the supporting affidavit, it still establishes probable cause. Upon arrest, Brixen no longer had a right to keep his phone in his pocket; once the phone was seized the notification projected on the screen was plain to see. Disabling notifications that automatically appear on the phone would have preserved the message as private but Brixen simply had no reasonable expectation of privacy in a conspicuous notification once his phone was seized.