In Part One of my previous post on this subject, I discussed the Supreme Judicial Court’s recent ruling upholding the validity of a search warrant issued for the defendant’s computer, when the warrant was issued seven months previous to the computer’s seizure. That case is Commonwealth vs. Guastucci, SJC-12829, and the defendant was convicted of uploading and possessing child pornography on his computer. A video of oral arguments before the SJC can be viewed by clicking here, courtesy of Suffolk University Law School.
Before going further, let’s define the legal standard that police and law enforcement must establish, in order for a judge to issue a search warrant. Very briefly, it’s called “probable cause”. Basically, this means that a judge must find that a substantial basis exists to believe that evidence of criminal activity may reasonably be expected to be located in the location searched “at the time the search warrant issues” (Commonwealth v. Long, 482 Mass. 804, 809; 2019). Generally speaking, it is not overly difficult for police or a law enforcement agency to obtain a search warrant. That being said, what made the Guastucci case notable was that the defendant didn’t deny any other elements of the crime he was charged with – it was his “staleness” argument over the search warrant that was at issue. On appeal from his conviction, the defendant argued that the passage of seven months between the alleged upload of child pornography and the application for a search warrant rendered the warrant stale so that it lacked probable cause.
This legal argument failed. The SJC affirmed Defendant’s conviction of two counts of possession of child pornography, holding that the information in the search warrant was sufficient for a magistrate to have found probable cause, and that the information in the trooper’s application for a search warrant did not render the warrant so stale so that it lacked probable cause.