Voluntary Search, Interview Leads to Florida Child Pornography Conviction

Search and seizure issues can often make or break a criminal case in Florida. State and federal laws impose a number of restrictions on law enforcement officers. That includes requiring them to have a “reasonable suspicion” to believe a crime is being committed or has recently been committed to stop a car or frisk a person on the street and to have “probable cause” to search a home. As the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida recently explained, however, there’s a big exception for cases in which a person voluntarily agrees to a search or to answering questions from the cops.

police handcuffsThe defendant was arrested in 2011 for allegedly videotaping himself having sex with a minor. The victim of the crime led police officers to the defendant’s home on the day of his arrest. The four officers, who were in an unmarked truck and were not wearing uniforms, presented their police identification to the defendant’s uncle, and one identified himself as a police officer to the defendant when he appeared on the scene. The defendant agreed to speak with the officers, who confronted him with the victim’s claim that he had taped himself having sex with her. The officer asked for permission to enter his bedroom and found a number of items in the room that matched the victim’s description of the room. The defendant later gave the officer permission to photograph the room.

Another officer arrived on the scene and informed the defendant in Spanish of his right to remain silent and right to an attorney. He proceeded to answer questions and voluntarily allowed the officers to search his bedroom. He was charged with a number of criminal offenses, including engaging in a commercial sex act with a minor, producing child pornography, and possessing child pornography. He was eventually convicted on both of the child pornography charges. He was sentenced to nearly 20 years in prison.

The defendant later appealed the conviction, arguing that the trial judge should have granted his request to keep his statements to the cops out of the evidence admitted at trial. He argued that the statements were the product of an unlawful search and seizure. The District Court disagreed. It noted that the defendant voluntarily allowed the officers into his home and agreed to answer questions. The court also observed that he was not handcuffed, restrained, or otherwise forced to stay with the police during that time.

“The record establishes that [the defendant] consented to the officers entering and searching his home, and further, that such consent was knowing and voluntary.”

If you or a loved one has been charged with a sex crime in Florida, it is essential that you seek the advice and counsel of an experienced lawyer. Clearwater child pornography attorney Will Hanlon is a seasoned lawyer who fights aggressively on behalf of clients charged with a wide range of offenses. Call our offices at (727) 897-5413 or contact us online to speak with Mr. Hanlon about your case.

More blog posts:

Double Jeopardy in Florida Sex Crime Cases

Proving Intent in Florida Sex Crime Cases

Constructive Possession in Florida Child Pornography Cases