Metadata Proves Timing of Search


Two days. Judge Elizabeth K. Dillon issued a decision, Blanchard v. Prater, No. 7:17-cv-00079, 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 55789 (W.D. Va. Mar. 31, 2019), granting the defendants' motion for summary judgment in a suit for the alleged violation of the plaintiff's Fourth Amendment right to be free from an unreasonable search and seizure. The plaintiff contended that the defendants, law enforcement officials, searched her home between 9:00 AM and 1:30 PM before the issuance of a warrant for the search, which was approved at 11:55 AM. The plaintiff stated that she was not given the warrant until 1:30 PM.

This case is notable because of the Court's finding that electronic evidence submitted by the defendants established that there was no genuine dispute of material fact that the home was searched pursuant to a valid warrant. The plaintiff claimed that photos of items collected during the search were taken between 9:34 AM and 11:51 AM, and based this assertion on data in the Apple preview program. This program actually indicated the photos were taken in 2000 - a clear error. The defendants' submitted uncontradicted evidence from an expert that the photos internal metadata indicated they were taken between 1:34 PM and 3:52 PM. One of the photos showed a digital clock reading, '2:04'. The internal metadata of this photo showed it was taken at 2:06 PM.

The plaintiff's cell phone indicated that she phoned her son at 6:48 PM. She testified that she called her son right after the police left her home, so the phone records also helped established that the police visited her home later in the afternoon rather than earlier in the morning.

The plaintiff consented to the police reviewing phone numbers on her phone to see who she had called recently, and the phone was among the items seized in the search.


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