In April 2011, the Utah Internet Crimes Against Children task force arrested 39 suspects in a state-wide child pornography sting. The task force executed 52 search warrants on homes and 39 warrants on computers, seizing a total of 124 computers, 118 external hard drives, 31 cell phones, five X-box game consoles and over 1,000 CDs and DVDs. The reality is that even if all of those suspects are exonerated, they will likely never get those seized items back.
When the FBI or other law enforcement agency comes barging in with a search warrant, most people are shocked that the government can take away computers, cell phones, iPods, iPads and other electronic devices. People are even more shocked that the government can keep all of those items.
To allow such invasive searches, the law only requires law enforcement to convince a judge there is probable cause those items contain evidence of a crime. Unfortunately, computers, cell phones and other electronic devices may be confiscated because of the file sharing capabilities of such devices.
In rare cases, a person can show they need the computer or other device more than the government. They might be able to get the device back after the government has copied all of the relevant data. But that is rare and the best thing to do is to just buy a new computer, phone or other device.
However, Salt Lake City sex crimes attorneys cannot emphasize enough that a person who has electronics seized by the government doesn’t want their computer back, they want their life back. That is because criminal charges (often for sex crimes) are likely in the works. If convicted, the person will probably have to register as a sex offender and face jail or prison time. Convicted sex offenders (especially when the crime involved children) do not fare well in prison.
If you or a loved one has had their computer or other electronic devices seized in a criminal investigation, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately. An attorney who knows the system can fight to protect your rights and work with the proper authorities.