Massachusetts Legal Developments Blog

Recognizing Your Rights During Searches for Child Pornography

The Suffolk District Attorney’s Office reports that a Boston man faces child rape charges following allegations that he forced a minor to have sex for housing and drugs for several months. The man was arraigned in the Roxbury Division of the Boston Municipal Court on three counts of aggravated rape of a child under 16 and one count of distribution of obscene materials.  

The man was held on a $15,000 cash bail and ordered to stay under house arrest. The man’s bail was later revoked for a previous drug charged. Officers first responded to the man’s home following the report of the stabbing of a minor who had been missing for six months. After performing an investigation, law enforcement alleged that the man had forced the minor to have sex for things like housing, drugs, and money for several months. Child pornography was also played in front of the victim. 

A conviction connected to child pornography carries serious repercussions that can interrupt a persona’s professional and social life. Consequently, it is a good idea to know your legal rights if law enforcement ever performs a search of your computer, smartphone, or other electronic device.

What Police Can (and Cannot) Do Without a Search Warrant

Law enforcement will often begin by asking whether it has your permission to search your electronics for child pornography. If you allow law enforcement to search, police will not need to obtain a warrant before searching your electronics. As a result, it is almost always in your best interest to deny law enforcement the right to perform such a search.

If law enforcement, however, thinks that child pornography is on your electronic device and there is reason to believe you will immediately destroy the device, law enforcement can search the device without obtaining a warrant.

You Still Have Rights if the Police Have a Warrant

Warrants are documents signed by judges that give law enforcement the authority to either perform an arrest or search a property. If the police tell you that they have obtained a warrant to search your electronic device or devices, you have a right to request to see the warrant. Several elements should be included on the warrant like the specifics of what is to be searched and the judge’s signature. While the warrant addresses what the police are looking for, if the police stumble on other incriminating evidence while executing a warrant, then the police can keep this evidence, too.

While a warrant to search an electronic device means law enforcement can do certain things, there are still limits. For one, while you cannot actively obstruct the police’s search, you certainly do not have to help the police. You also do not have to answer any questions that the police ask you while performing such a search.

What Happens if the Police Cannot “Get in” to Your Electronics

Provided the police have a warrant to search the item, the police can take your electronic device somewhere else to perform a more detailed inspection. If the police think that evidence of a criminal offense is on the electronic device, they can keep this item as evidence. Sometimes law enforcement even tries to permanently keep electronics through the forfeiture process, but this can be challenged.

Do Not Hesitate to Speak with a Criminal Defense Lawyer

Criminal charges should be taken seriously because they can result in lasting repercussions. One of the best things to do if you or a loved one is charged with a criminal offense is to promptly contact an experienced attorney. Contact attorney Edward R Molari today for assistance.