Meika Britton was on post release supervision (PRS) for child exploitation in 2016 when concerned parents reached out to Southaven Police Department (SPD) about Britton. The parents alleged that Britton, 46 years old, was sending text messages to their 14 year old daughter. Investigator Brandon Rushing, SPD, opened an investigation and arranged a meeting with Britton through his probation officer.
During the meeting, Rushing asked Britton to retrieve his cell phone from his vehicle. Once Britton retrieved his phone, he immediately began pushing buttons and stated that he did not want his probation officer to see the content. Rushing seized Britton’s phone and later obtained a search warrant for the phone. Britton’s phone revealed that he had sent multiple explicit sexual Facebook messages to minor children.
The State filed a petition to revoke Britton’s PRS based on his new acts of child exploitation and contribution to the delinquency of a minor. After a hearing, the court revoked his PRS and ordered him to serve his suspended ten year sentence in the custody of the MDOC. Britton filed a post conviction relief (PCR) asserting that his Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights were violated by the search and seizure of his cell phone. MCOA denied his PCR.
The United States Supreme Court stated in United States v. Knights, 534 U.S. 112 (2001), that when an officer has reasonable suspicion that a probationer subject to a search condition is engaged in criminal activity, there is enough likelihood that criminal conduct is occurring that an intrusion on the probationer’s significantly diminished privacy interests is reasonable.
Prior to meeting Britton, Rushing had gathered sufficient evidence to prove that Britton was engaged in criminal activity and that Britton was in violation of his PRS. Once Rushing told Britton to retrieve his phone, Britton began pushing buttons on his phone, stating that he did not want his probation officer to see the content. Rushing clearly had reasonable suspicion to seize Britton’s cell phone.
Rushing then obtained a search warrant, which led to a full investigation of Britton’s criminal activity. The contents of Britton’s phone revealed that he had been sending inappropriate Facebook messages to minor children, requesting sexually explicit pictures and videos.
Under Mississippi law, probation may be revoked upon a showing that the defendant more likely than not violated the terms of probation. Here, there was sufficient showing that Britton more likely than not committed the crimes asserted based on Rushing’s testimony, the investigation, and through documentation of Britton’s text and Facebook messages.