If a warrant is issued but the policecan’t find what they are looking for but they find evidence of an unrelated offense, can they charge you for that?

UPDATED: Aug 27, 2011

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If a warrant is issued but the policecan’t find what they are looking for but they find evidence of an unrelated offense, can they charge you for that?

They come to search for illegally downloaded computer files which do not exist. While searching for that they happen to find a gun which would have been legal if they had not also found some weed flakes. They take all the computers, memory cards, etc but a year later still no computer charges since the files do not exist. Could they still charge for the flakes and gun even though they would not have stumbled into it without the warrant to search for computer data? Or could that be thrown out the window when they finally conclude their investigation and fail to find the data?

Asked on August 27, 2011 Louisiana


S.L,. Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

Since the police were conducting a lawful search pursuant to a search warrant for the computer files and found the gun and marijuana, you could be subject to criminal charges for the gun and marijuana possession.  Although the gun and marijuana were not the subject of the search warrant, they were discovered during the course of the search and therefore were in plain view of the police.  Contraband in plain view may result in additional criminal charges whether or not the police find the computer data that was the subject of the search warrant.

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