E.D.Va.: Delay in searching electronics not unreasonable on balance

A state search warrant was issued for defendant’s electronics. They went to the State Police computer lab to analyze, but they were in a long queue. A few months into the delay, the federal government sought its own search warrant. On balance, the delay in the search was not unreasonable. United States v. Brady, 2021 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 245277 (E.D.Va. Dec. 23, 2021):

Similarly, the balance between the government’s interest and Defendant’s possessory interest in the devices here justifies delay. Pratt, 915 F.3d at 271. It is important to note the specific conditions associated with his bond post arrest pertaining to electronic devices. According to his mother’s testimony at the suppression hearing, Defendant was not allowed to use a phone without her present and he was banned from using the internet. Consequently, Defendant’s possessory interest in the electronic devices was diminished based on his bond restrictions.

Following execution of the federal warrant, Defendant’s possessory interest in the laptop was further diminished, as the underlying investigation revealed violations of his bond restrictions, leading to the revocation of his bond and placement in custody. A Defendant’s possessory interest in certain evidence, particularly electronic devices, is diminished when he is in custody. United States v. Skinner, No. 3:19cr19, 2021 WL 1725543, at *25 (E.D. Va. April 29, 2021) (finding, because Defendant could not have his phone while detained, his possessory interest was diminished compared to government’s interest in the seizure). Therefore, when Defendant was arrested following the February 2020 search warrant, he did not have a colorable possessory interest in the computer. Any post-arrest delay in searching the computer was justified by its evidentiary value. This would include the delay between the federal agents acquiring the computer from CCPD on May 27, 2020 and when they obtained the warrant to search its contents on June 17, 2020. Thus, no part of the delay in searching Defendant’s electronic devices after they were seized violated the Warrants Clause of the Fourth Amendment.

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