TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA) – In a case involving allegations that a man placed hidden cameras in his adult stepdaughter’s bedroom, an appeals court Friday overturned a conviction on video-voyeurism charges because police improperly obtained evidence from a laptop computer.
A three-judge panel of the 2nd District Court of Appeal ordered a new trial for Armando Rafael Perez, who was convicted in the Polk County case. The ruling said Perez was accused of hiding small cameras in an electrical outlet and smoke alarms in his stepdaughter’s bedroom.
The stepdaughter discovered that a television in the home displayed a live feed from her bedroom, leading to her mother looking at Perez’s laptop and calling the police. The laptop included videos of the stepdaughter in “various states of undress,” according to the ruling.
A detective called a prosecutor and asked if he needed to obtain a warrant before searching the laptop but was told he should seek consent for the search from Perez’s wife. Perez sought to suppress the video evidence from the laptop, arguing it was improperly obtained by police.
A circuit judge refused to suppress the evidence, citing what is known as the “inevitable discovery doctrine.” The judge based that, at least in part, on finding that the detective had probable cause that would have supported getting a warrant.
But the appeals court unanimously disagreed with that decision. “On this record, we conclude that the inevitable discovery doctrine cannot apply where, as here, the state’s only preserved argument is that strong probable cause existed for a search warrant and that the law enforcement officer ‘could have’ obtained a warrant but decided not to actively pursue one because a prosecutor told the officer that consent would suffice,” said the 11-page ruling, written by appeals-court Judge John Badalamenti and joined by judges Darryl Casanueva and Laurel Lee.