United States v. Van Poyck

Palaaksha KandhariCase Summary

Admission of the defendant's statements made during phone calls from a prison

United States v. Van Poyck
77 F.3d 285 : 96 Cal. Daily Op. Serv. 1091 : 96 Daily Journal D.A.R. 1850
In the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
Case Number 94-50318
Before Circuit Judge Hall, Circuit Judge Noonan, and District Judge Shubb
Decided on February 20, 1996

Relevancy of the Case: Admission of the defendant’s statements made during phone calls from a prison

Statutes and Provisions Involved

  • The Omnibus Crime Control and State Streets Act, 18 U.S.C § 2510-2520

Relevant Facts of the Case

  • The police had charged the appellant with 3 counts of armed robbery and one count of conspiracy to commit an armed bank robbery. He was transferred to federal custody on 24th May to appear before a federal magistrate.
  • However, no federal magistrates were available over the weekend for arraignment.
  • On his way to his appearance, he made multiple incriminating statements to the officer driving him. Moreover, on 25th May, he made numerous calls to his friends in the Metropolitan Detention Centre (MDC).
  • He had signed a form consenting to routine monitoring and taping of calls. Based on these recordings, the court found him guilty on two counts of armed robbery and one count of conspiracy.

Prominent Arguments by the Counsels

  • The defendant’s counsel argues for the suppression of recordings as they resulted from pre-arraignment delay. The counsel also challenges MDC’s recording policy under the Fourth Amendment.
  • The Assistant US Attorney submitted that call recordings are constitutionally valid for three reasons. First, the Fourth Amendment is not applicable as the defendant had neither a subjective nor objective expectation of privacy. Second, Even if he did, the prison system’s interest in institutional security makes such recordings reasonable. Third, the defendant consented to the recordings.

Opinion of the Bench

  • Here, the public policy does not warrant the suppression of evidence. The defendant’s statements fall outside the “safe harbour” ambit.
  • No prisoner should expect privacy in outbound telephone calls. There is well-established awareness regarding the recording of calls at the MDC.

Final Decision

  • The Court of Appeals held that the defendant’s statements were not barred from admission.