Working for the Federal Bureau of Investigation is a dream of many Americans. The famed agency has - rather understandably - a difficult hiring process including a polygraph. I'm assuming questions concern possible crimes the job candidate has committed as well as generally making sure they are not a threat to national security.
When Dominick Pelletier appeared for a job interview with the FBI, he was escorted to the polygraph room where the types of questions were explained to him. Pelletier became nervous about the potential for questions about sex crimes as he had done research on child pornography in a different country. He was assured that the questions would only concern whether he possessed or distributed child pornography, and the test was administered.
Much to his dismay, he failed the polygraph. Explaining the situation, he said that he had seen child pornography images as part of his research. The FBI agent remained calm, and Pelletier continued to think he was in consideration for the position. FBI agents continued to ask him questions, and he admitted to possession of "child erotica" at home.
After refusing to allow FBI to accompany him to his home, Pelletier ultimately signed a consent form after being told they would just get a search warrant anyway. He remained at the office, never asked to leave or to speak with an attorney, and apparently still thought he would be considered for the job. Unfortunately for him, he didn't get the job, and more than 600 images of child pornography were found on his computer.
Pelletier was ultimately convicted of possession, and he appealed, arguing that "he was entitled to Miranda warnings and did not receive them" and that his consent to search was involuntary.
The Seventh Circuit held that Miranda rights were not necessary as Pelletier was not in custody. The lengthy time at the office, encounters with armed agents, and security measures were all a part of the job application process - and were not a result of his suspected criminal activity. "Pelletier was friendly and talkative throughout the day ... and asked at the end of the interview whether his possession of child pornography would slow his job application process."
The court also did not address the consent issue as they determined probable cause allowed for a search warrant which protects the evidence under the inevitable discovery doctrine.
As a side note, it is always a pleasure to read a Seventh Circuit opinion. Judge Kanne began the opinion:
Federal investigative agents will tell you that some cases are hard to solve. Some cases require years of effort—chasing down false leads and reigning in flighty witnesses. Others require painstaking scientific analysis, or weeks of poring over financial records for a hidden clue. And some cases are never solved at all—the right witness never comes forward, the right lead never pans out, or the right clue never turns up.
This is not one of those cases.I'm always a little appreciative of a judge (and a clerk, of course) willing to be a little creative with their legal writing.
The case is United States v. Pelletier, No. 12-1274 (7th Cir. 2012).