In Mastrogiovanni v. State, the Georgia Court of Appeals affirmed the defendant’s convictions for sexual exploitation of children and, in an issue of first impression in Georgia, held that the police do not need to obtain a second search warrant to search a computer that has already been seized pursuant to a valid search warrant.
Mastrogiovanni was arrested after the Georgia Bureau of Investigation received a tip from the Center for Missing and Exploited Children regarding an email message that had an embedded pornographic image of a child. The email account was traced to Mastrogiovanni and police executed a search warrant at his home, where they discovered pornographic images of children on his personal computer.
On appeal, the defendant claimed that his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to file a motion to suppress on the grounds that the police failed to obtain a second search warrant before they examined the computer seized during the search of the home. In order to establish that counsel was ineffective because of a failure to file a motion to suppress, a defendant must “make a strong showing that the damaging evidence would have been suppressed had counsel made the motion.”
The Court of Appeals noted that there was no authority to support the contention that a separate warrant was needed to search the computer. The Court held that when a computer has been seized pursuant to a valid search warrant, the police do not need a second search warrant to examine the contents of the computer. The Court made an analogy to seized firearms, noting that the police do not need a second warrant to run ballistic tests.
Since the defendant failed to make the necessary showing that a motion to suppress would have been granted on those grounds, the Court held that the trial court did not err in finding that trial counsel was not ineffective for failing to file the motion.
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