Johnson City, TN asked in Criminal Law for Tennessee

Q: can police search my computer without a warrant?

they came to my home to investigate the overdose of two neighbors. they asked if i would talk with them about it. they further asked if they could search for any more of the drug, "in the interest of public safety". i hesitated but said they could look for any more of the drug. one went to the bedroom and started searching. the other went to the living room. several minutes later, the one in the living room went into the dining room, turned on my computer, opened up my e-mail, and found incriminating evidence. he yelled "start telling me everything, or i'm going to start throwing everything in here out into the hallway" ( i live in an apartment building). . he told me it would go easier on me if i allowed him to take the computer then and there so i allowed him. three or four days later i got a copy of a search warrant. i was arrested a year and a half later and charged with several felonies. i am 62 years old and have never been in trouble in my life.

Related Topics:
1 Lawyer Answer
William T. Bly
William T. Bly
  • Criminal Law Lawyer
  • Kennebunk, ME

A: Your question is a bit more complex and requires a longer explanation. The police were not allowed to exceed the scope of the search, for which you gave them permission. The scope of the search was to seek physical evidence of drugs. Once you gave them permission, they were allowed to search through your home for evidence of those drugs. However, it would be unreasonable to believe that your permission included the right to search your computer as your computer cannot contain physical evidence of drugs.

Now, it appears that they found evidence of trafficking. The search of your computer was illegal and formed the basis for the search warrant delivered to you later. The officer coerced your consent, which was improper as well. I would say that it appears you have good grounds to get any and all evidence obtained from the illegal search of your computer suppressed.

Unfortunately, these type of police intimidation tactics appear to happen way too often. The citizens who's rights they are sworn to protect are the same exact citizens who's rights they violate on a daily basis. And at the end of the day, none of us are really safer anyway.

Justia Ask a Lawyer is a forum for consumers to get answers to basic legal questions. Any information sent through Justia Ask a Lawyer is not secure and is done so on a non-confidential basis only.

The use of this website to ask questions or receive answers does not create an attorney–client relationship between you and Justia, or between you and any attorney who receives your information or responds to your questions, nor is it intended to create such a relationship. Additionally, no responses on this forum constitute legal advice, which must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case. You should not act upon information provided in Justia Ask a Lawyer without seeking professional counsel from an attorney admitted or authorized to practice in your jurisdiction. Justia assumes no responsibility to any person who relies on information contained on or received through this site and disclaims all liability in respect to such information.

Justia cannot guarantee that the information on this website (including any legal information provided by an attorney through this service) is accurate, complete, or up-to-date. While we intend to make every attempt to keep the information on this site current, the owners of and contributors to this site make no claims, promises or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the information contained in or linked to from this site.