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Should I ever consent to having my computer searched by the police?

Answer:

No, you should never consent to having your computer searched, even if it's for a limited purpose. As a Jacksonville criminal lawyer, I have seen all to often criminal charges brought for what the police find on someone's computer. The 11th. Circuit Court of Appeals decision in the case of USA v. Watkins (July 28,2014) is an example of this. Mr. Watkins agreed to assist law enforcement in a murder investigation after the body of a seven year old girl, with whom Watkins was acquainted, was found in a landfill. Watkins was not a suspect in the murder of the child. The child was friends with Watkin's grandchildren and the children occasionally used the Watkins home computer. The police wanted to search for clues by visiting the websites the children had visited. Watkins agreed, but told the police that he had downloaded some child pornography on the computer. The police assured Watkins that they had no interest in the child porn; they were only interested in evidence relevant to the murder investigation. So Watkins agreed to allow the police to search his computer, but only as it related to the murder investigation.

Can the police search my car because of it's color?

Answer:

No, they cannot police search your car because of it's color. The Florida Supreme Court recently decided State v. Teamer (July 3, 2014), in which a person was charged with drug trafficking and possession after the vehicle he was driving was stopped by a deputy sheriff who noticed an inconsistency between the actual color of the vehicle Mr. Teamer was driving and the color indicated on the vehicle's registration. How would a cop know this, you might ask, from his police cruiser? The police are told that, when sitting in traffic, or watching a vehicle stopped at a light, for example, to use their on-board computers to run random license plates to check if there are any outstanding warrants or other discrepancies. As a Jacksonville criminal lawyer, I can tell you that the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office does this routinely.

Can the police to pull me over and search my car for no reason?

Answer:

No, they cannot search your car for no reason. It is against the law for the police to use a 'pretext' (a made up reason) to pull you over and then use that pretext (whether it be a broken taillight, a cracked windshield, a failure to signal a lane change or speeding) to search your car for contraband like drugs and guns. But of course, this happens every day on our Florida highways. As a Jacksonville criminal attorney, I have seen cops come up with some very original reasons for why they pulled over certain motorists. The cops know that drugs and guns are routinely transported on the Florida interstates. But that doesn't mean they're allowed to pull you over based on a hunch. They have to have a reason - probable cause of criminal activity - to initiate a full blown search. I recently represented a young man who was pulled over near the Georgia border in Nassau County because he had several chains hanging from his rearview mirror, supposedly "obstructing his view' out the front windshield. He was even given a traffic ticket for this by the Nassau County Sheriff's Office. That was the 'pretext' the cop was going to use to conduct a search of my client's car. The real reason he was pulled over was that he was a young black man with long Rasta dreads driving a white Cadillac Escalade...in other words, Driving While Black. But the police aren't allowed to profile this way, so instead, they came up with the nonsense reason that my client's view out his front windshield was obstructed. They did this to justify the stop of my client's car in the first place.

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