CA10: Cell phone search for evidence of sex trafficking could be broad; this was particular enough

The cell phone search warrant in this sex trafficking case allowed search of everything on the phone that could contain evidence of sex trafficking as defined under Oklahoma law. It was not overboard because the information sought could have taken many forms. United States v. Palms, 2021 U.S. App. LEXIS 37803 (10th Cir. Dec. 21, 2021):

Mr. Palms argues the warrant was not constitutionally valid because it did not particularly describe the things to be seized even though it was limited to evidence of human trafficking. Thus, we must determine whether “the crime of human trafficking” is a sufficiently specific crime such that a warrant’s limitation to search and seize evidence of it satisfies the Fourth Amendment’s particularity requirement. We hold that it is.

. . .

The warrant here is sufficiently limited. Oklahoma state law explicitly prohibits “human trafficking.” Okla. Stat. tit. 21, § 748(B) (“It shall be unlawful to knowingly engage in human trafficking.”). And the definition of “human trafficking” is not as unrestrained as Mr. Palms suggests. It is defined as “modern-day slavery that includes, but is not limited to, extreme exploitation and the denial of freedom or liberty of an individual for purposes of deriving benefit from that individual’s commercial sex act or labor.” Id. § 748(A)(4).

Although Oklahoma’s definition of “human trafficking” includes both types of human trafficking—sex trafficking and labor trafficking—it is still a sufficiently specific, defined crime. See, e.g., United States v. Burgess, 576 F.3d 1078, 1083, 1091 (10th Cir. 2009) (holding a warrant was sufficiently particular when it authorized a search for evidence of the sale of any illegal controlled substance even though probable cause for the warrant was based on evidence of marijuana and cocaine). It therefore does not run afoul of our rejection of warrants that broadly encompass “any crime.” Cf. Otero, 563 F.3d at 1132-33 (holding a warrant was not particular when it had “no limiting instruction whatsoever” and authorized “a wide-ranging search of [the appellant]’s computer”); Cassady v. Goering, 567 F.3d 628, 635-36 (10th Cir. 2009) (holding a warrant was not particular when there was only “probable cause to search for evidence related to marijuana cultivation, yet the warrant authorized the seizure of all possible evidence of any crime in any jurisdiction”).

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