Use of Evidence Derived From Joint U.S.-Thai Search in Thailand Not Extraterritorial Application of Statute

The World in U.S. Courts: Fall 2013 - Criminal Law | August.01.2013

United States v. Stokes, 726 F.3d 880, 2013 U.S. App. LEXIS 16042 (7th Cir. Aug. 1, 2013)

Several years prior, after having been convicted for misdemeanor battery for indecently touching two minors, Defendant was permitted to move to Thailand. After receiving a tip years later, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Service, in a joint operation with the Royal Thai Police, searched the Defendant’s home in Thailand, uncovering “thousands of images of Stokes’s sexual activity with Thai boys.” After the discovery, Defendant was extradited to the U.S. and convicted in Florida of traveling in foreign commerce for the purpose of engaging in a sex act with a minor.

Defendant challenged the extraterritorial search of his home in Thailand as violating the warrant requirements of the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The Court of Appeals affirmed the Defendant’s conviction. It concluded that, while not generally having an extraterritorial reach, the warrant requirements applied here because the evidence came from a joint operation between U.S. and Thai authorities, rather than a search initiated solely by Thai authorities. As such, the Amendment’s “touchstone requirement of reasonableness” still applies. And since the search was reasonable based on Defendants’ prior conviction and the anonymous tip, the search was constitutional.

[Editor’s Note: Compare the reasoning of this case with that in 10 Ring Precision, Inc. v. B. Todd Jones, discussed elsewhere in this report.]

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