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Expectation of Privacy — Abandoned Property

State v. Robert C. Knight, 2000 WI App 16, 232 Wis.2d 305, 606 N.W.2d 291
For Knight: Scott B. Taylor.

Issue: Whether the seizure of files earmarked for destruction by a disbarred attorney violated the fourth amendment.

Holding: The files, which the disbarred attorney had turned over to a third party for destruction, had been abandoned and therefore no search and seizure occurred within the meaning of the fourth amendment.

Knight was a disbarred attorney. He had given his client files to his secretary, who had taken them to her home and was going to throw them out. Before she could do that, a circuit court appointed a trustee to take charge of the files, pursuant to SCR 22.271(2). The trustee found evidence of embezzlement in one of the files, leading to Knight’s conviction and this appeal. The fourth amendment didn’t protect Knight, because he had abandoned the files to his secretary. “When a person turns material over to a third party, that person has no Fourth Amendment protection if the third party reveals it or conveys it to governmental authorities,” regardless of the person’s “subjective belief or expectation that the third party would not betray him or her.” ¶13.

 

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