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Orlando Criminal Defense Lawyer > Blog > Sex Crime > Can a Police Officer Lie and Still Obtain a Valid Search Warrant?

Can a Police Officer Lie and Still Obtain a Valid Search Warrant?


Police officers must obtain a warrant before conducting a search of a criminal suspect’s property without their consent. (And if you are the suspect, you should never give such consent.) Obtaining a warrant generally requires the officer to sign a sworn affidavit detailing the specific facts that support “probable cause.” In other words, the officer must explain why they have reason to believe the requested search is likely to uncover evidence of some crime.

Florida Appeal Court Reverses Suppression Order in Child Pornography Prosecution

Florida courts often give the police great leeway when it comes to probable cause findings. Indeed, the Florida Second District Court of Appeals recently held that even in a case where 5 out of 6 statements made by a police officer in support of a search warrant were likely false, the warrant itself was still valid since at least 1 statement was enough to support a probable cause finding. As a result, the Second District reversed a trial judge’s decision to suppress evidence gathered under that warrant.

This particular case, State v. Domenech, involves allegations the defendant possessed child pornography. The defendant’s then-girlfriend went to the police to share her belief that the defendant had child pornography on his laptop. She said the defendant kept the laptop and a USB drive in a backpack. He told her that “you cannot access what’s on the laptop without a Linux [operating system] or TOR browser, or it will alert law enforcement.” The girlfriend also told a detective that the defendant kept clothed pictures of underage girls on his phone.

At this point, the detective knew he did not have probable cause to obtain a search warrant for the defendant’s laptop. So he organized a “controlled call,” where the girlfriend spoke to the defendant with the detective listening. Following this call, the detective filed an affidavit and obtained a search warrant. The search identified 20 images that the detective believed constituted child pornography under Florida law. The defendant was then arrested and charged accordingly.

As the Second District explained in its decision, the detective’s affidavit misstated the contents of the controlled call in several places. Notably, the detective asserted that the defendant had “confessed to downloading child pornography.” He did not. At best, the Second District said the detective showed a “reckless disregard for the truth.”

Nevertheless, the appeals court upheld the warrant because the detective accurately characterized the defendant’s statements that his laptop contained “images he knew were of underage girls engaging in sexual conduct.” This alone was sufficient to create probable cause. So even though the detective exaggerated and mischaracterized the defendant’s other statements, the state could still use the results of the laptop search against the defendant at trial.

Contact the Joshi Law Firm Today

When it comes to any crime–but particularly offenses involving the exploitation of children–you cannot expect the police or the courts to bend over backwards to defend the rights of the accused. That is why you need to work with a qualified Orlando sex crimes defense attorney who will aggressively represent you in court. Contact the Joshi Law Firm, PA, today to schedule a free consultation.



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