Computer Crimes FAQ
Q: I have been served with a search warrant for my IP address and any computers as part of a child pornography investigation. I have been involved in chat rooms. What should I do?
A: DO NOT TALK TO ANY INVESTIGATORS. They will try to get you to discuss the computers and detached devices they are seizing. They want to know if they belong to you. They want to know about your computer usage. They want to know what you view when online. All this information may be highly incriminating and may make the difference between a case being filed or not. Additionally you may lose any defenses you might otherwise have. DO NOT TALK TO ANY INVESTIGATORS. YOU DO NOT HAVE TO. SIMPLY STATE THAT YOU WANT A LAWYER PRESENT BEFORE ANY QUESTIONING OF ANY TYPE.
Q: A law enforcement officer wants to talk with me about images of children on my computer. What should I do?
A: DO NOT TALK TO ANY LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICER WITHOUT AN ATTORNEY PRESENT. SIMPLY TELL THE OFFICER YOU WANT A LAWYER PRESENT BEFORE ANY QUESTIONING. You have a right to remain silent. Use it. Anything you say will most certainly help the police prosecute you. It will not help you.
Q: I am going to be charged with a crime involving the use of a computer. Do I need a lawyer with special knowledge about computer crimes?
A: Yes you do. Few lawyers have actually litigated and tried these cases. It is important that your lawyer has litigated these cases. There is much specialized knowledge that a lawyer must have in order to know what to look for in determining any defenses you might have. I work with a superb group of lawyers and forensic computer people. This insures that my clients get an excellent team on your case to get the best possible result for you.
If I'm being investigated by Child Protective Services or the police, should I be concerned about my electronic devices?
Q: I have become aware that Child Protective Services and/or the police are investigating me or a member of my family. Should I be concerned about my text messages, emails and messages on social media?
A: YES. DO NOT USE ANY ELECTRONIC DEVICES ONCE YOU BECOME AWARE OF AN INVESTIGATION. The individuals investigating your case will make every effort to seize your phones and computers looking for incriminating evidence. What you say about the facts of your case, or even your emotional response to being investigated, can be damaging evidence the state will use against you in a criminal or CPS case.
Q: If I receive phone calls from someone I know or even suspect is accusing me of a crime or any misconduct should I speak with that person?
A: ABSOLUTELY NOT. THE POLICE ARE RECORDING THIS CALL. In Arizona, and several other states, the law permits a phone call to be secretly monitored and recorded if one party to the conversation consents. It has become a favorite investigative tool of the police to have your accuser call you with questions the police themselves have prepared for him/her. This is called a “confrontation call”. ANYTHING YOU SAY IN THIS CALL WILL HURT YOU LATER. If you even suspect you are receiving a confrontation call, hang up the phone immediately and call a lawyer experienced in these types of cases. DO NOT ANSWER FOLLOW UP CALLS FROM THIS SAME INDIVIDUAL.
Prior Conviction Investigation
Q: Should I be concerned if I'm being investigated for a crime by the police and/or Child Protective Services and I have a prior criminal conviction or I have been the subject of a prior police report?
A: YES. Police, Child Protective Service workers and prosecutors are trained to focus on people, not facts. What this means is the first thing that occurs when your name arises in an investigation is the authorities look to see if you have a criminal record or even if there exists an earlier uncharged allegation in a police report.
Q: Am I more likely to be charged with a crime if I have a prior criminal conviction?
A: YES. Prosecutors know that a prior conviction makes it far more difficult for an individual to defend himself at trial if he has a criminal record. Felony convictions, within 10 years of the date of the new charges, can be used to impeach you at trial. This means the jury can be told you have a prior felony conviction if you decide to testify at trial making your conviction far more likely. Also, if you have a prior felony conviction, the police and prosecutors are likely to be less concerned they may be charging an innocent person since, in their minds, your prior conviction makes you a person “probably guilty of something”.
Q: Does it matter the type of crime for which I was previously convicted?
A: YES. As stated in another section of this site, a sex crime conviction makes you a moving target for the rest of your life. If you are a registered sex offender, you will be a prime suspect in any sex crime investigation. If you are involved in a divorce proceeding and you are fighting for custody of your child, a vindictive spouse can simply claim you molested your child in a manner similar to the crime for which you were previously convicted. If you find yourself in this situation, you should not rely on the advice of your divorce lawyer. You are facing the possibility of a long prison sentence and should contact an experienced criminal lawyer immediately. (See link to Defending Against Character Evidence: The Weapon of Choice for Prosecutors)
Q: I'm a university student and last night I went to a fraternity party and had consensual sex with a girl I met there. This morning I'm being charged with raping the girl. Should I tell the police what actually happened?
A: NO. Alcohol and sex have become a potentially dangerous mixture in the politically charged atmosphere of the university campus. What starts as a night of flirting and doing shots often leads to drunken sex. While the sex is consensual, the female involved may be confronted by an angry, jealous boyfriend or may simply be embarrassed when questioned about the evening's events by curious friends. Remorse may set in. An all too frequent reaction is the young lady diverts attention from her own responsibility for the sexual encounter by claiming she was raped. The friend then reports the matter to the police who are obligated to investigate.
Q: Will the police fairly and thoroughly investigate the rape allegations?
A: PROBABLY NOT. Once the police learn the girl had been drinking they will rely on the Arizona law that says an incapacitated (ie. Intoxicated) person cannot consent to a sexual encounter. Immediately, the girl will be the victim and you will be the suspect, regardless of the actual facts. By the time the police question you, they have already decided you are guilty of rape. They want you to tell them two things: 1. Were you and the girl drinking? and 2. Did you have sex? If you answer these questions you have confessed to rape and will likely be arrested.
Q: Will the police investigation or the investigation by the school administration ultimately exonerate me?
A: NO. In the politically charged atmosphere of the college campus, when a rape allegation is made it is presumed to be true. The authorities do not investigate the accusations; they corroborate them with your own statements. When first confronted by anyone about the girl's claims, SAY NOTHING. Immediately contact an attorney experienced in cases of this kind. That attorney will use his investigator to uncover witnesses and facts the police have ignored.
Q: Can criminal charges be dismissed and I still be expelled from the university?
A: YES. The criminal case and the university's administrative hearing are two separate proceedings. By remaining silent when questioned about the accusations, you may be setting yourself up for expulsion from school following a “kangaroo court” conducted by a college official. However, YOU MUST REMEMBER A CRIMINAL CONVICTION FOR RAPE IS FAR MORE SERIOUS THAN EXPULSION FROM SCHOOL. If convicted of rape, each count carries a mandatory, presumptive prison sentence of 7.5 years for which there is no early release. Furthermore, after being released from prison you will be required to register as a sex offender for the rest of your life-a hardship more onerous and enduring than the prison sentence itself. YOU DO NOT WANT TO BE CONVICTED OF RAPE, SENT TO PRISON AND REQUIRED TO REGISTER AS A SEX OFFENDER. If you are expelled from college, there are other colleges. So keep things in perspective and do not discuss the allegations with anyone but an attorney who knows how the process really works. The decisions you make when confronted with rape allegations following a night of sex will have repercussions the rest of your life. DO NOT TALK TO THE POLICE.