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Name: People v. Nicholls
Case #: C054252
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 3 DCA
Opinion Date: 01/30/2008

Affidavit supporting search warrant for laptop computer was sufficient where officer alleged that child molesters often collect child pornography. Appellant was charged with child molestation and possession of child pornography based on materials seized from his laptop computer pursuant to a warrant. The affidavit in support of the warrant alleged that in the officer’s experience, people who molest children tend to collect child pornography. On appeal, appellant argued that the probable cause affidavit failed to establish a fair probability that child pornography would be found in his laptop computer, laptop bag, or car. The appellate court rejected the argument and affirmed. The fact that the affidavit didn’t indicate that he used the laptop or child pornography during the molestation of the victim was not conclusive. Law enforcement officers may draw upon their expertise to establish probable cause. Here, the affidavit did not totally depend on the expert’s opinion about activities of child molesters, but also contained information that appellant stored his computer in a garage attic and expressed concern in a phone call to his mother that no one “mess” with his computer. The record supported the magistrate’s finding of sufficient probable cause to issue the warrant, and therefore the search was reasonable.