The Third Department determined that the search warrant for defendant’s cell phone was overbroad in that it authorized a search for evidence of all the sex offenses listed in Article 130 of the Penal Law. But the portions of the warrant which authorized a search for evidence of sexual abuse and child pornography were supported by probable cause. In searching the phone pursuant to the valid portion of the warrant, the police found a video of defendant committing rape. That video was correctly seized under the “plain view” doctrine:
We agree with defendant’s overbreadth contention only insofar as the affidavit was insufficient to establish probable cause to search defendant’s cell phone and seize evidence related to all of the many crimes classified under Penal Law article 130 … . Notwithstanding that overbreadth, probable cause existed to search and seize photographic and video evidence from defendant’s cell phone related to his alleged June 2018 commission of the crime of sexual abuse in the first degree (see Penal Law § 130.65  …). Furthermore, even though the June 2018 video itself was not child pornography as that term is generally understood under the Penal Law … , it was also reasonable for the issuing magistrate to conclude, based on the affidavit and the content of the June 2018 video, that a search of all data on defendant’s cell phone would yield additional evidence of the crime of sexual abuse, along with crimes classified under Penal Law articles 235 and 263 … . Therefore, because “the warrant [i]s largely specific and based on probable cause” … , we need only sever the overbroad portion of the warrant that directed a search for evidence of Penal Law article 130 crimes other than sexual abuse.
… [O]ur severance decision does not require exclusion of the May 2018 videos allegedly depicting him committing the crime of rape in the first degree because they are not “the fruit[s] of the invalid portion of the search warrant” … .. Rather, we find that those videos were properly seized pursuant to the plain view doctrine, which authorizes law enforcement to seize an item in plain view if “(i) they are lawfully in a position to observe the item; (ii) they have lawful access to the item itself when they seize it; and (iii) the incriminating character of the item is immediately apparent” … . People v Alexander, 2022 NY Slip Op 04585, Third Dept 7-14-22
Practice Point: Here portions of the search warrant for defendant’s cell phone were invalid as overbroad (the warrant authorized a search for evidence of all the sex offenses listed in Article 130 of the Penal Law). The Third Department “severed the overbroad portions” and determined the valid portions authorized the search for evidence of sex abuse. In conducting the search pursuant to the valid portions of the warrant, a video of a rape was found. That video was properly seized pursuant to the plain view doctrine.