Drug Evidence Thrown Out After Illegal Search in Florida

If you are caught with drugs, you may think that you should just plead guilty and accept the consequences. However, depending on your situation, this may not be the best idea. Sometimes, the evidence against you may have been found during an illegal search. If the police perform an improper search on you, your home, or vehicle, the evidence gathered from that search may be inadmissible in court. If the State’s whole case is based around this evidence, then the charges may be thrown out entirely. A skilled Clearwater criminal defense attorney can help you decide the best strategy for your case.

The Circumstances of the Evidence

A man was charged with possession of cocaine after the police found crack cocaine in a takeout food container the man was holding. The officer testified that the defendant was standing on a street corner around 7:30 a.m. When the officer drove by in an unmarked vehicle, he stated that the defendant glanced at him with a “deer in headlights” look. Immediately after noticing the officer, he dropped the fork he was using, along with another small packet, into the container. The police officer instructed his partner to detain the defendant and then he took the container. The container held grits and a white, semi-waxy square that contained crack cocaine.

The defendant’s attorney asked for the search to be suppressed, alleging it was illegal. The lower court found it incredible that the police officer would have been able to see the packet from afar and be able to identify it as contraband. However, the court held that it didn’t matter whether the officer knew specifically what the packet was, but just that there was a reasonable belief that it was something illicit. Thus, it allowed the search to stand.

Florida Search and Seizure Law

Americans are protected by the Fourth Amendment against illegal searches and seizures. In this case, the defendant argued that his rights were violated. The Florida Fourth District Court of Appeal agreed with the defendant and held that the search was illegal and the evidence should have been suppressed.

The trial court relied on the plain view doctrine, which allows police officers to seize evidence without a warrant if they can immediately identify that the evidence is incriminating. In other words, the officer needs to have probable cause that there is a crime being committed or that is about to be committed. In this case, the trial court relied on the fact that the officer used his experience to identify the defendant’s behavior as suspicious.

However, the appellate court held that this was not sufficient for there to be probable cause, or even reasonable suspicion, that would warrant a search. The appellate court partially relied on the finding of the lower court that it was impossible that the police officer could have known what the item was that the defendant dropped into the take out container. Thus, the police did not meet the burden of probable cause for the search and it was deemed illegal.

Contact An Experienced Clearwater Criminal Defense Attorney

If you are charged with a drug crime, you should contact an experienced Clearwater criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Our criminal defense team at Hanlon Law Firm can help defend you or a loved one against criminal charges. Call our offices at (727) 897-5413 or contact us online to speak with our skilled attorneys about your case.

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