Questions And Answers On Search Warrants And Computers

by Dr.Norman`s

Davina asks…

In Computer Forensics, when is a search warrant needed?

Dr.Norman`s answers:

Any time the suspect doesn’t give consent to search his electronic device.

The one exception is a computer being brought into the US can be searched by Immigration with no warrant or consent.

Lynn asks…

Search Warrant Homework Question?

A police officer obtains a search warrant for the residence of a suspect whose fingerprints were recovered from the scene of a burglary. The same suspect was found to have pawned a laptop computer stolen from the burglary. Also stolen during the burglary was a 42 inch flat screen television. The officer obtained the search warrant to search the suspect’s home for the stolen television. During the search warrant the officer opens a bedroom closet and observes a handgun lying on the floor. An inquiry is made on the serial number of the gun and it is found to be stolen. Later the officer opens the drawer of the night stand next to the bed and observes a bag of marijuana.

1) Can the officer legally seize the stolen gun without a search warrant? (I said No.)

2) Can the officer legally seize the marijuana and use it to charge the suspect? (I said No.)

3) Would the officer be able to obtain another search warrant to seize the gun? (I said Yes.)

Can you checks question 1-3 and provide some reasoning? Thanks.

Dr.Norman`s answers:

1) Yes. The gun was found during a legal search in a place where the items named in the warrant could have reasonably been hidden. It’s the plain-sight exception.

2) Yes and no. The cop can seize the pot, but he can’t charge the suspect. While he had a warrant, there’s no possibility that a 42″ TV could be in the nightstand, so the search of the nightstand was illegal.

3) He would not need a warrant to seize the gun, because he’d already seized it. Nor could he get a warrant for the pot, because the only evidence of its existence is the fruits of an illegal search.

Don asks…

are you happy now that the Belgians got a search warrant and detained Bishops and confiscated computers?

The belgians got a search warrant approved and stormed a church and detained bishops and collected church papers and confiscated computers.

The pope of course said that the Catholic Church should be the ones investigating these abuse cases, but the Belgians I guess don’t think so.

So is the world finally standing up to the Roman Catholic Church and realizing that no one is above the Law?
i read about it in my newspaper, but I’m sure if you google Belgian police takes catholic bishops, it’ll come up.
oh yeah, they did open a few graves, but hey, they got a search warrant so they can do as they please.

Dr.Norman`s answers:


Sorry, but no one should be above the law. If they have proper suspicion to get a warrant issued, they should go in and use that warrant. This is especially true since it seems the Pope hasn’t been doing anything about the sex crimes for decades now. Someone has to put a stop to it since the Pope has decided not to.

Jim asks…

Are The Police Allowed to search your personal computer’s data for incriminating evidence without a warrant?

Fourth Amendment essay

Dr.Norman`s answers:

In most cases, no. The general rule is the police must have a warrant issued by a sitting judge, which means the police have to show probable cause for the search. There are a couple of exceptions, however. The police can ask someone for their consent. If a person consents, any incriminating evidence on the computer can be used against them. Another example is the “plain view” rule — if the police come into your house to ask you some questions, you invite them in, your computer is on, and the police see something on the screen that leads them to believe you’re doing something illegal, they can search. The other exception to the rule is if you are trying to import or export a computer. U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers can search you and/or any personal property without a warrant based on “reasonable suspicion.” Many unwise individuals who keep child porn on their laptops get nailed by Customs entering or leaving the country (and it doesn’t matter if it’s your personal laptop that you bought in the U.S. — ANYTHING you take with you through Customs is subject to search).

P.S.: The folks who cited the Patriot Act are correct, but it’s a very narrow exception — most judges are likely to throw out evidence that was obtained under the umbrella of the Patriot Act unless they can give a clear and convincing argument that the search was done in the interest of National Security.

David asks…

Police have warrent to search for computer, but not search the computer itself?

Police served a search warrant to seize computers, but they don’t have warrants to actually search the hard drives themselves. My lawyer has told me that they need to have separate warrants to actually search the hard drives. There are 6 computers involved. The detective has tried to search the computers herself, but the drives are too large(Each pc is a minimum of 2 terabytes each.). She was only able to search two of them and will be sending the other four (4) to either the FBI or ICE. Nothing was found on the first two computers and there isn’t anything on the other four. Here is my question. She has yet to get warrants to search the computers themselves, but has searched at least two of them, was this even legal???

Dr.Norman`s answers:

Unless the person that applied for the warrant was an IDIOT, the warrant to search for the computers includes authorization to actually search the computers. Your IDIOT claiming to be an attorney is CLUELESS. They need separate LANGUAGE to search the computer, but that language is a STANDARD part of a warrant to search for the computer.

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