Florida Consent to Search Does Not Authorize LEOs to Handcuff

A local Tampa Defense Attorney notes that in Hidelgo v. State, 35 Fla. L. Weekly D18a (Fla. 3d DCA December 23, 2009), a Miami LEO conducted a lawful traffic stop of a vehicle the defendant was a passenger in. The DEA had previously asked the Miami Dade PD to develop reasonable suspicion to stop the car. During the stop, the defendant spoke to the driver in Spanish. This apparently created a safety concern in the LEO's mind, as the LEO did not speak Spanish. The LEO asked both occupants if they mind if he searched the vehicle, and they replied no. He asked the defendant to get out of the car, he patted her down, handcuffed her, and placed her in the back of a police car for around thirty minutes. The LEO admitted that the defendant was not free to leave. Contraband was later found. The court found that the defendant's seizure was unlawful. "We hold that a valid consent to search a vehicle does not authorize law enforcement officers to order the occupants out of the vehicle and place them in handcuffs for a lengthy period of time in the back of a patrol vehicle."

The court discussed the two part test set out in Reynolds v. State, 592 So.2d 1082 (Fla. 1992), specifically: "whether the action was justified at its inception and whether it was reasonably related in scope to the circumstances which justified the interference in the first place . . . We do not suggest that police may routinely handcuff suspects in order to conduct an investigative stop. Whether such action is appropriate depends on whether it is a reasonable response to the demands of the situation. When such restraint is used in the course of an investigative detention, it must be temporary and last no longer than necessary to effectuate the purpose of the stop. The methods employed must be the least intrusive means reasonably available to verify or dispel in a short period of time the officers' suspicions that the suspect may be armed and dangerous …. Absent other threatening circumstances, once the pat-down reveals the absence of weapons the handcuffs should be removed."

Source: Hidelgo v. State, 35 Fla. L. Weekly D18a (Fla. 3d DCA December 23, 2009) (Thanks to Attorney Rocky Brancato) .

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