What Constitutes an Illegal Search in Florida?
Last summer, a well-publicized drug search happened in South Florida. On a warm summer morning, a man was standing on a street corner as an unmarked police car drove by. The man had a sudden shift in demeanor as he noticed the police car, and the officer reported that the man then dropped a fork and a small packet into the takeout container he was holding. The officer’s curiosity was piqued by the man’s behavior. He quickly turned around, detained the man, and conducted a search which uncovered crack cocaine in his takeout container.
Did that constitute a legal or illegal search?
Florida Probable Cause Laws
For an officer to legally search a suspect in Florida, they need probable cause. For probable cause to exist, an officer must have sufficient knowledge of certain facts to warrant a belief that a suspect is committing a crime.
In the case of the cocaine takeout container, police argued probable cause for their search based on the plain view doctrine, which states: “Once officers have lawfully observed contraband, ‘the owner’s privacy interest in that item is lost,’ and officers may reseal a container, trace its path through a controlled delivery, and seize and reopen the container without a warrant.” In this situation, the officer believed that because he saw the subject place something in the container, he had the right to search it.
Unlawful Search and Seizure Defense
In the United States, citizens are protected from unlawful search and seizure by the Fourth Amendment which states “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
The lawyers of the man with the takeout container built a defense based around unlawful search and seizure, which is “search and seizure by law enforcement without a warrant or probable cause.” They claimed there was no way the officer could have known that what the man placed in the takeout container was contraband.
When reviewed by the appellate court, unlawful search and seizure was deemed a credible defense for the man with the takeout container. They agreed that the police officer did not have enough evidence to back-up a legal search. Therefore, the contraband evidence was thrown out.
Proven Drug Charge Lawyers in Florida
It’s your right to refuse a search if there’s no warrant or if you believe law enforcement officials didn’t have probable cause. It’s also your right to remain silent and ask for a lawyer. Therefore, in any situation related to search and seizure, it’s in your best interest to obtain a proven drug charge defense lawyer that you can trust.
At The Umansky Law Firm, we are Florida’s criminal defense lawyers. With more than 35 years of experience, we know what it takes to build a credible defense that stands up in court. To speak directly to an attorney today, call our office or fill out our online contact form. We believe everyone deserves a second chance and will work hard to give you the best legal representation possible.