Visit Our Blog
Read Out Blog
Case Evaluation
Charged With A Crime?

Forensic Searches Of Computers In Colorado How Long Can The Search Take?

By H. Michael Steinberg Colorado Criminal Defense Lawyer – Attorney

Forensic Searches Of Computers In Colorado How Long Can The Search TakeForensic Searches Of In Colorado How Long Can It Take? – In the investigation of Colorado computer crimes cases – the police will most often obtain a search warrant using fairly comprehensive boiler plate language granting the police the right to thoroughly search the computer and peripherals for evidence.

The execution of a search warrant for computers and peripherals is followed by a forensic examination – a second ” search” of the computers and peripherals that have been seized. This involves several complex questions – among them – how much time do the police have to search those computers where the search warrant and, (the original search and seizure of the computers and peripherals), was properly authorized by a Colorado Judge?

Search Warrants For Computers Are Usually Broad Enough To Cover Almost Every Kind Of Computer And Peripheral

The “Scope” Of The Search Warrant

Typically Colorado search warrants are usually very broadly written. They contain language such as:

…the seizure of any and all computer systems and computer equipment,”

“any and all storage media,” and

“any and all computer peripheral devices attached or unattached to the computer to include but not limited to . . . physical devices which serve to transmit or receive information to and from the computer.”

In certain cases, such as Colorado Sexual Exploitation Of Children cases, the search warrant will include specialized additional language such as:

“images, video, or drawings which portray child pornography.”

In executing a search warrant police officers will try to interpret the scope its terms broadly that means that the police are allowed to search for, seize and later forensically “technological containers” that are reasonably likely to contain the items described in the warrant.

“Technological container” can be digital cameras, external hard drives, thumb drives and other similar digital storage devices.

How Long Do The Police Have To Execute A Search Warrant After A Judge Has Signed The Warrant?

Under Section 16-3-305 – the police are allowed only 14 days to execute the warrant and seize the evidence allowed by the warrant. The law governing how Colorado search warrants can be executed follows:

§ 16-3-305. Search Warrants – Direction– Execution and Return

(1) Except as otherwise provided in this section, a search warrant shall be directed to any officer authorized by law to execute it in the county wherein the property is located.

(2) A search warrant issued by a judge of a municipal court shall be directed to any officer authorized by law to execute it in the municipality wherein the property is located.

(3) Any judge issuing a search warrant, on the grounds stated in section 16-3-301, for the search of a person or for the search of any motor vehicle, aircraft, or other object which is mobile or capable of being transported may make an order authorizing a peace officer to be named in the warrant to execute the same, and the person named in such order may execute the warrant anywhere in the state. All sheriffs, coroners, police officers, and officers of the Colorado state patrol, when required, in their respective counties, shall aid and assist in the execution of such warrant. The order authorized by this subsection (3) may also authorize execution of the warrant by any officer authorized by law to execute it in the county wherein the property is located.

(4) When any officer, having a warrant for the search of a person or for the search of any motor vehicle, aircraft, or other object which is mobile or capable of being transported is in pursuit thereof and the person, motor vehicle, aircraft, or other object crosses or enters into another county, such officer is authorized to execute the warrant in the other county.

(5) It is the duty of all peace officers into whose hands any search warrant comes to execute the same, in their respective counties or municipalities, and make due return thereof. Procedures consistent with this section for the execution and return of search warrants may be provided by rule of the supreme court.

(6) A search warrant shall be executed within fourteen days after its date.

The Forensic Analysis Of Computers, Peripherals And Other “Technological Containers” Can Take Place Weeks Or Months Later

Simply put – the forensic analysis of the items seized during the execution of a search warrant can occur outside the statutory fourteen – day time frame for executing the warrant. A later analysis of the computers etc does NOT constitute an unconstitutional warrantless search.

Execution of a warrant is different from forensically examining the items seized. The police are not required to conduct an analysis of the items seized at the time of the execution of the warrant.

The search warrant that specifically authorizes the seizure of technology – contemplates a later search of that media. The police are NOT required to obtain a “second warrant” to search properly seized media as long as the items seized in the search did not “exceed the probable cause articulated in the original warrant.”

Lengthy delays in forensically searching computer after it is seized does not invalidate the search because delays in searching a computer do not “cause a lapse in probable cause.”

Currently there is NO LIMITATION on how long law enforcement may take to complete their forensic analysis of computers and peripherals seized pursuant to a valid search warrant.

The Exception – When Evidence Of A Different Crime Is Inadvertently Located

In CERTAIN cases, a second warrant to search electronic media is required because while forensically searching a device – evidence of a different crime is inadvertently uncovered.

Under these circumstances in order to continue to search for evidence of this second crime, a second search warrant is legally required.

An Example:

If an original warrant authorizes a search of a computer for evidence related to illegal drug sales and the police discovery evidence of the crime of possession of child pornography — the authorities must obtain another search warrant to search for this evidence.

This is because Colorado law enforcement may not expand the scope of a search beyond its original justification.

On the other hand if the original warrant authorized the subsequent computer search because the unexpected evidence uncovered was “within the original justification for the search and seizure of the computer,” no further adjustments of the original warrant need be obtained.

Forensic Searches Of Computers In Colorado How Long Can The Search Take?

If you found any of the information I have provided on this web page article helpful please click my Plus+1 or the Share buttons for Twitter and Facebook below so that others may also find it.

The reader is admonished that Colorado criminal law, like criminal law in every state and at the Federal level, changes constantly. The article appearing above was accurate at the time it was drafted but it cannot account for changes occurring after it was uploaded.

If, after reading this article, you have questions about your case and would like to consider retaining our law firm, we invite you to contact us at the Steinberg Colorado Criminal Defense Law Firm – 303-627-7777.

Never stop fighting – never stop believing in yourself and your right to due process of law. You will not be alone in court, H. Michael will be at your side every step of the way – advocating for justice and the best possible result in your case. H. Michael Steinberg is passionate about criminal defense. His extensive knowledge and experience of Colorado Criminal Law gives him the edge you need to properly handle your case

H. Michael Steinberg Best Colorado Criminal Defense LawyerABOUT THE AUTHOR: H. Michael Steinberg – Email The Author at hmsteinberg@hotmail.com – A Denver Colorado Criminal Defense Lawyer – or call his office at 303-627-7777 during business hours – or call his cell if you cannot wait and need his immediate assistance – please call 720-220-2277.

“A good criminal defense lawyer is someone who devotes themselves to their client’s case from beginning to end, always realizing that this case is the most important thing in that client’s life.”

You should be careful to make a responsible choice in selecting a Colorado Criminal Defense Lawyer. We encourage you to “vet” our firm. Over the last 30 plus years – by focusing ONLY on Colorado criminal law – H. Michael has had the necessary time to commit to the task of constantly updating himself on nearly every area of criminal law, to include Colorado criminal law and procedure and trial and courtroom practice. H. Michael works hard to get his clients the best possible results in and out of the courtroom. He has written, and continues to write, extensively on Colorado criminal law and he hopes this article helps you in some small way – Forensic Searches Of Computers In Colorado How Long Can The Search Take?

Summary
Forensic Searches Of Computers In Colorado How Long Can It Take?
Article Name
Forensic Searches Of Computers In Colorado How Long Can It Take?
Description
In the investigation of Colorado computer crimes cases - the police will most often obtain a search warrant using fairly comprehensive boiler plate language granting the police the right to thoroughly search the computer and peripherals for evidence.
Author

Other Articles of Interest:

If you found the information provided on this webpage to be helpful, please click my Plus+1 button so that others may also find it.

___________________________
H. Michael Steinberg Esq.
Attorney and Counselor at Law
The Colorado Criminal Defense Law Firm of H. Michael Steinberg
A Denver, Colorado Lawyer Focused Exclusively On
Colorado Criminal Law For Over 30 Years.
DTC Quadrant Building
5445 DTC Parkway, Penthouse 4
Greenwood Village, Colorado, 80111
Primary Web Site:  http://www.HMichaelSteinberg.com
Colorado Criminal Law Blog:  www.Colorado-Criminal-Lawyer-Online.com
Main:  303.627.7777
Cell:  720.220.2277
24/7 Pager:  303.543.4433
FAX (Toll Free):  1.877.533.6276
Always investigate a lawyer's qualifications and experience before making a
decision to retain that lawyer or, for that matter, any professional ...in any field.