One of the biggest weapons that the police have in the deterrence, prosecution, and investigation of sex crime cases is that they'll come in with a warrant and grab a person's devices. They'll hold their phone.
They'll grab their iPad, their tablet, their computer, and then they'll give those devices to a forensic expert with specific instructions to look for sex-related material on them. That's one weapon they always have.
If they're investigating some sex crime – a rape, for example – and they go into somebody's house, and they're looking for evidence, they're going to be looking for stuff related to the crime.
If it was a rape and the person broken into the other party's house, then they're going to be looking to find maybe a mask, gloves, anything that would support the fact that that person is a sexual predator who broken into someone's house to commit rape.
Seizing Evidence in Homes and Vehicles
So, the prosecutors and the police have all kinds of resources available to them when it comes to seizing evidence and searching people's homes, cars, and all the information that the person has to try to prosecute them for a sex crime.
When I see them grabbing people's computers, those types of cases are usually prosecuted at the federal level, but of course, we see computers used at the state level as well.
To get a search warrant in a sex crime case, you're going to need to be able to show probable cause that whatever it is that the police are asking to be searched – whether it be a home, a car, the person's other property storage unit or their person – you've got some information that points to the fact that if the judge grants the search warrant – then you're going to find something in that location.
Maybe you've done some surveillance. Perhaps a witness has given you a tip. Maybe it just makes sense based on the information and evidence you already have against the person that they might have something in their home, for example.
So, searches of computers and other areas are something that the prosecutors use to investigate sex crimes in Los Angeles.
Search and Seizure Motion
So, sometimes the people will ask me, wasn't that illegal that they were able to get that search warrant and they didn't have any information, and what the defense does to challenge those searches and seizures of evidence in sex crime cases is they'll file a Search and Seizure Motion.
They'll file a motion saying they did not have probable cause to get into that house.
The magistrate should not have been able to permit them to get in there; they shouldn't have granted their request for a search warrant, and therefore, the search warrant in the sex crime case should be quashed if on its face. There was no evidence that there would be anything inside the location to be searched that would be criminal.
It could be traversed, which is another term used for arguing that someone illegally went into someone's home, for example. Then you can present facts that are outside the search warrant's Affidavit – outside the points that were known to the Magistrate at the time that shows that the police lied. They manipulated evidence.
They omitted evidence – that's another big one they do all the time in these sex-related warrants.
Another thing that I see the police do when grabbing people's computers and searching homes is they will come up with some confidential informant. Then they'll try to claim that that person gave them information, but they don't want to reveal that person's identity because that might put the individual in danger.
So, then we're doing what's called a Hobbs motion, basically saying, judge, we don't believe the prosecutors. We don't think they need to hide the person's identity, and if the person is giving information about our client, not only do we want to know what it is, we want to know where they got it from.
Did they make it up? Or do they have some reliable source or reliable information?
It's big-time stuff when it comes to these sex-related offenses, grabbing people's computers, searching them, using forensic experts to explore them. The defense is entitled to use a forensic expert when searching these computers.
So, if you have one of these cases, get to a sex crime defense attorney immediately. Let them help you out and get the case moving in the right direction, so you get the best defense in your sex-related matter in Los Angeles County.
See related: What Is Your Best Option If You Have a Sex Crime Warrant?