United States v. Yang, No. 18-10341 (9th Cir. 2020)Annotate this Case
The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of defendant's motion to suppress after he pleaded guilty to receipt of stolen mail and being a prohibited person in possession of a firearm. Defendant moved to suppress the evidence seized from his residence and the statements he made to law enforcement on the basis that the search warrant obtained by the Postal Inspection Service relied on evidence that was obtained illegally.
The panel declined to address the potential Fourth Amendment privacy interests that may be implicated by the warrantless use of this Automatic License Plate Recognition (ALPR) technology, and held that defendant does not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the historical location data of the Yukon under the facts of this case. The panel found no evidence in the record that Prestige Motors had a policy or practice of allowing lessees to keep cars beyond the rental period and Prestige had made affirmative attempts to repossess the vehicle by activating the GPS unit to locate and disable the vehicle. Therefore, defendant lacked standing to challenge the warrantless search of the database.
Court Description: Criminal Law. The panel affirmed the district court’s denial of a suppression motion in a case in which the defendant entered a conditional guilty plea to receipt of stolen mail and being a prohibited person in possession of a firearm. After the defendant was observed on surveillance cameras driving a rented GMC Yukon and stealing mail out of post office collection boxes, a Postal Inspector located the defendant at his residence, and the Yukon, by inputting the Yukon’s license plate number into a license-plate location database, which receives license plate images and the GPS coordinates from digital cameras mounted on tow truck, repossession company, and law enforcement vehicles. The defendant moved to suppress the evidence seized from his residence and the statements he made to law enforcement on the basis that the automatic license plate recognition technology used by the Postal Inspector without a warrant violated his Fourth Amendment right to privacy in the whole of his movements under Carpenter v. United States, 138 S. Ct. 2206 (2018). The panel held that the defendant did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the historical location data of the rental vehicle after failing to return it by the contract due date, where there was no policy or practice of UNITED STATES V. YANG 3 the rental company permitting lessees to keep cars beyond the rental period and simply charging them for the extra time. The panel concluded that the defendant therefore lacked standing to challenge the warrantless search of the database. Judge Bea concurred in the judgment. He disagreed with the majority’s holding that because the defendant’s lease on the Yukon had expired when its license plate was photographed by the automatic license plate reader, he has not alleged a violation of his reasonable expectation of privacy and therefore lacks standing to challenge the warrantless search of the database. He would affirm on the grounds that the search of the database did not reveal the whole of the defendant’s physical movements, and therefore did not infringe on that reasonable expectation of privacy.