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Does a Search Warrant Permit Officers to Access Cloud Storage?

As technology progresses, Florida police officers, prosecutors, and courts face novel questions as to how the Fourth Amendment protections against unlawful searches and seizures apply to evidence sought from a cloud account or other online storage source. The Eleventh Circuit United States Court of Appeals recently ruled on a case where the defendant had challenged the validity of a search warrant that was used to obtain evidence against him for a firearm charge. The defendant challenged the breadth of a warrant that allowed the police access to his entire iCloud account.

According to the facts discussed in the recent appellate opinion, the defendant was charged with illegal possession of a firearm by a felon after police discovered a picture of him holding a weapon in his cloud storage. The initial police investigation was for an armed robbery, and they obtained a warrant to search his iCloud account for evidence related to the robbery. Although not enough evidence was found to charge the defendant with the robbery, he was charged with the firearm offense based on his felon status.

The defendant challenged the admission of the photograph into evidence, arguing that the warrant was overbroad and allowed police access to too much information without probable cause. The appellate court agreed that the warrant was insufficient, though the ruling was upheld anyway based on the good faith exception. The good faith exception allows police to make a mistake of law and potentially violate a suspect’s constitutional rights if that officer relied upon a good-faith belief that what they were doing was constitutional. The appeals court was sympathetic to the officer’s conduct because searches of cloud storage systems are relatively new, and with evolving technology comes evolving laws. As a result of the appellate opinion, the defendant will be required to serve his sentence.

Evidence found in cloud storage devices can be relevant to Florida sex crime prosecutions. In many sex crime cases, digital evidence, such as images, videos, messages, or documents, may be crucial in establishing guilt or innocence. Cloud storage can be a source of such evidence. Furthermore, cloud storage may contain evidence of the distribution of any files, including location data and communication records. This evidence can be used to prove the elements of a Florida sex crime charge. Anyone accused of a Texas crime that involves evidence seized from a cloud storage or other online platform should contact a qualified criminal defense attorney to see about challenging the admission of such evidence.

Are You Facing a Florida Sex Crime?

For individuals facing sex crime charges in Florida, the difference between a conviction and acquittal or dismissal can come down to your choice of attorney. The qualified Florida criminal defense attorneys with the Mayberry Law firm will stand up to the charges against you. We specialize in sex crimes and understand how to challenge the admission of electronic evidence. Our experienced criminal lawyers defend Floridians from a variety of sex crime charges, including online offenses. Contact our office at 813-444-7435 or email me directly at to discuss your case.

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