United States v. Sandell, No. 21-1511 (8th Cir. 2022)Annotate this Case
During an investigation of a peer-to-peer computer file-sharing network being used to acquire child pornography, officers learned from Sandell's neighbor that Sandell had asked to use their Wi-Fi to access the internet to register his sex offender status. Officers knocked on Sandell’s door, identified themselves, conducted a sweep of the home, then asked Sandell where he would like to talk. Sandell invited them inside. The officers explained they were attempting to obtain a search warrant for Sandell’s home but that Sandell was not under arrest, was not obligated to talk to them, and was free to leave. Officers supervised Sandell while he moved around the house. Sandell admitted to downloading child pornography. He voluntarily turned over a camera and thumb drives, stating that he was likely facing 15 years' imprisonment. The officers ultimately obtained a warrant and collected Sandell’s laptop, thumb drives, and DVDs.
Sandell was later charged with distribution, receipt, and possession of child pornography. Sandell unsuccessfully moved to suppress statements made at his home. The Eighth Circuit affirmed. Sandell was not in custody; the officers did not need to advise Sandell of his Miranda rights. Officers informed Sandell repeatedly he was not under arrest and was not obligated to speak to them. Sandell retained his freedom of movement and voluntarily answered questions. Officers did not use strong-arm or deceptive tactics. Sandell was not immediately arrested.