Florida Court Tosses Drugs Found in Purse

Ritalin, Tramadol, Fourth Amendment, methylphenidate, Grady Judd, odor of marijuana
'faint odor' of marijuana
but found no marijuana
"the officer lacked reasonable suspicion of criminal activity and 
probable cause to seize the evidence."

Drug Crime Cop Gone Wild

One of Polk county's finest, a deputy sheriff under the notorious Sheriff Grady Judd pulled over a car for a traffic violation. The Court said there was “initially a stop due to the traffic violation, once the officer determined not to cite the driver and asked the driver for consent to search the vehicle, the encounter became consensual” 

The cop takes the passenger's purse and searches it. The appeals court found, as a matter of fact, the officer had searched the defendant’s purse. The wayward officer had removed a pill box from the vehicle. The cop did not know what kind of pills he had found during his soon-to-be illegal search. He had to search on the internet. I kid you not - Drugs.com . As a drug crime defense attorney, the offensive tactics that some Florida state law enforcement use to obtain criminal charges to justify seizure of both drugs and then cash, vehicles, and real estate are disturbing.

"The officer testified to a 'faint odor' of marijuana but found no marijuana"

By the way here is another case where they was an allegation of an "odor of marijuana." Shockingly, there was no weed found in the car. It turns out the pills were Ritalin (methylphenidate) and Tramadol. Nevertheless, the Fourth Amendment violation continued when the officer wandered to his patrol car with the pill box. At that point the Second District Court of Appeal found “the encounter again became an investigatory detention . . . .” The court ruled that the search of the pill box in the passenger's purse “requires reasonable suspicion that an individual has committed or is about to commit a crime . . . .” For the search to have been legal the officer must have “a well-founded, articulable suspicion of criminal activity” (quoting Smith v.State, 95 So. 3d 966, 968). 

Excerpts from the Drug Seizure Opinion

"The officer testified that although he knew the purse belonged to Gay [ name of the passenger ]and not the driver, he did not seek consent from Gay to search the purse."

"The officer testified to a 'faint odor' of marijuana but found no marijuana in either the purse or pill box. And the mere observation of pills in an aftermarket container is equally consistent with noncriminal activity as with criminal activity."

"investigatory detention and seizure of the pills and pill box was unauthorized"

"[T]he deputy’s actions constituted a show of authority that would lead a reasonable person to conclude he or she was not free to end the encounter and leave. . . . [N]either the illegal nature of the possession of the pills nor the type of pills was known to the officer at the time he removed them from the vehicle. Nothing about the pills or pill box gave him a reasonable suspicion that the defendant had committed, was committing, or was about to commit a crime. Nor did he know that any of the pills were controlled substances at the time he seized them. . . . The investigatory detention and seizure of the pills and pill box was unauthorized; the officer lacked reasonable suspicion of criminal activity and probable cause to seize the evidence. [The defendant’s] motion to suppress should have been granted."

Source: Gay v. State, 138 So. 3d 1106 (Fla. 2d DCA 2014)

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