The Boy George Crime Busters Club
U.S. v. Yang, 06-3017 (7th Cir., Mar. 7, 2007)
Remember Boy George, who called police to report a break-in, only to be busted when police found cocaine in his apartment? Well, defendant You Bin Yang could have learned a lesson from Mr. George, as he suffered a similar fate after he summoned police to his home to report a burglary. The police asked Yang if they could take some items for fingerprinting, including some notebooks that contained accounting information written in Chinese. It turned out that Yang was under investigation for tax fraud, and the police intended to make copies of the notebooks before returning them. Indeed, Yang even gave them permission to copy the notebooks after the crime lab informed him that the fingerprinting process could make the books illegible.
As police expected, Yang’s notebooks contained damning evidence that, once translated into English, helped the feds secure an indictment. Yang argued that the evidence from the notebooks should be suppressed, but the district court denied his motion. On appeal, the Seventh Circuit affirms Yang’s conviction. The Court explains that Yang gave up any expectation of privacy he had in the notebooks when he allowed police to take them for fingerprinting and then copy them, without any qualification. Accordingly, he cannot claim any Fourth Amendment protection for the information contained therein.