Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Philippines Supreme Court squashes search warrant quash applications

A common problem in the Philippines after raids is that defendants try to overturn the search warrant application on the basis that is was flawed. It is almost a standard tactic by some defense attorneys. If they fail, they then appeal, dragging the dispute out many years. The problem is that the courts would repeatedly grant such quash orders, destroying the entire raid, usually on the basis that, in their 'after the event' opinion there was no probable cause, most commonly because the investigation process was not done properly. Even when counterfeit goods were in fact found!
A new case has hopefully put the issue to rest. New Fields Asia Pacific was raided by the police on a complaint from Microsoft and Adobe based on search warrants. The Manila Regional Trial Court later quashed the warrants and directed that the seized items be returned. The RTC said that the search warrants were defective because they failed to specify which computers were to be searched for the pirated software. The investigating officer had no personal knowledge of the exact location of the installed software, and had relied on screen shots acquired from a confidential informant. Thus without personal knowledge there was no probable cause. The Court of Appeals later upheld the RTC ruling.

The Supreme Court has now overturned the decisions stating that the lower courts failed to focus on the substantive issues. Lets hope the courts will follow this and in future successful raids will cease to be overturned on what is in essence a technicality.

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