Florida Court Explains Factors Indicating Voluntary Consent to a Warrantless Search

If you are charged with a sex crime, it is important to understand what evidence the state will attempt to use against you. Evidence that is obtained via an unreasonable search may be precluded, but proving a search is unreasonable can be difficult, and it is important to understand what constitutes an unreasonable search.

A Florida court recently clarified when a warrantless search is valid, in a case in which they permitted the state to admit evidence found in the defendant’s home absent a warrant. If you face sex crime charges in St. Petersburg, it is in your best interest to meet with a skilled St. Petersburg sex crimes defense attorney who will vigorously fight to preclude evidence obtained without a valid search warrant.

Evidence Against the Defendant

Allegedly, the police began investigating the defendant after a woman contacted the police department and reported the defendant was having sex with the woman’s sister, who was a minor. A child protective team interviewed the minor, who explained that she and the defendant exchanged sexual messages through text, and via two different messaging applications, and eventually began a sexual relationship. The police found messages on the minor’s phone from the defendant in one application, but could not retrieve messages from the other application. The police then obtained a warrant to search the defendant’s phone.

Reportedly, the police spoke with the defendant outside of the home he shared with his parents, prior to executing the warrant. The defendant admitted to a relationship with the minor but denied having sex with her. The police then presented the warrant to the defendant. The defendant expressed concerns about turning over his phone, after which the police advised he would be arrested if he did not. Subsequently, the defendant’s mother entered the home along with a police officer and retrieved the phone from the defendant’s room. Within a couple of months, the police arrested the defendant at work. During the arrest the police seized a second phone from the defendant, on which they found evidence of two other minor victims and evidence the defendant received child pornography through phone applications. He was subsequently charged with production and possession of child pornography and lewd or lascivious battery or molestation. Prior to the trial, the defendant moved to suppress the evidence found on his phones.

Factors Establishing Voluntary Consent

The defendant argued, in part, that the police’s entry into his home constituted a warrantless search and that any evidence obtained in that search should be precluded. The court noted that the Fourth Amendment protects against unreasonable search and seizures absent a warrant and that with limited exceptions, warrantless searches of a home are generally unreasonable. One exception is when a search occurs after valid consent. To show consent is valid, the state must prove it was given freely and voluntarily, based on the entirety of the facts.

A person who lives with a defendant can give consent to search their home if he or she has control over the area searched. Here, the court found the search to be valid, in that the defendant’s mother consented to enter the home and retrieve the phone. The mother never objected to the search or indicated she did not have control over the area where the phone was located. Further, while the defendant questioned the authenticity of the warrant, he did not object to the search. As such, the court found the search to be valid and denied the defendant’s motion to suppress.

Set Up a Meeting with an Experienced St. Petersburg Sex Crime Defense Attorney

If you face sex crime charges in St. Petersburg you should consult an experienced sex crimes defense attorney to assist you in formulating a defense. William Hanlon of Hanlon Law is a skilled St. Petersburg defense attorney specializing in the defense of sex crimes, and he will work tirelessly to help you protect your rights. Call our offices at 727-897-5413 or via the online form to schedule a meeting.

More Blog Posts:

Appeals Court of Florida Finds Trial Court Erred in Requiring a Defendant to Register as a Sex Offender and in its Sentencing December 10, 2018, St. Petersburg Sex Crimes Lawyer Blog

Florida Court Clarifies What Constitutes an Overt Act in an Attempted Sex Crime November 29, 2018, St. Petersburg Sex Crimes Blog

Florida Appeals Court Hears Video Voyeurism case November 11, 2018, St. Petersburg Sex Crimes Blog

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