Florida Supreme Court overturns drug crime convictions, rules the initial traffic stop was illegal

The Florida Supreme Court ruled this month that the mere fact that the color of a vehicle is different than the color specified on the registration with the state is not enough to pull a driver over. The ruling led to drug trafficking and other related convictions to be overturned for a Panhandle man whose case began in 2010, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Decisions like this set the law for the entire state of Florida and are applicable here in Jacksonville Drug Crimes Cases.

In this Florida Drug Crimes Case, a police officer saw a bright green car and ran the license plate number through the state database that shows whom vehicles are registered to and other facts about the car, according to the newspaper report. The registration showed the car was blue, not green, so the officer used that as the basis to initiate a traffic stop, the newspaper reported. Once the man was pulled over and the officer approached the car, the officer smelled marijuana, which led him to search the car and find marijuana, crack cocaine and cash, the newspaper reported. The man was convicted at trial, but appealed, arguing the traffic stop amounted to a search without a warrant. The Supreme Court ruled the change in color was not “inherently suspicious” enough to justify pulling the person over without further probable cause, the newspaper reported. Drivers are allowed to paint their vehicle and do not have to immediately report the color change to police, so it should not be a factor to base suspicious activity from, the court opined. Yes, the defendant did have drugs in his possession. However, everything begins with the initial encounter with police and, if that’s not done correctly, it doesn’t matter what police find. Whatever is discovered would then be inadmissible in court.

Police must have a specific reason to make a traffic stop. In many Jacksonville Drug Crimes Cases, the reason listed in a police report will be along the lines of the driver swerving or speeding; driving with an expired tag; or maybe having a headlight burnt out. All of those are reasons the court deem acceptable to pull someone over. The issue of a valid traffic stop comes up frequently in Jacksonville DUI Cases, where the entire case is based on the traffic stop. Our Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney knows the limits of what police can do without a search warrant, and knows the fine print on what constitutes a legal traffic stop. Our Jacksonville Drug Crimes Attorney will thoroughly investigate your case to make sure everything was done by the book before you move forward with the case.

If you or a loved one needs a criminal defense attorney in Jacksonville or the surrounding area, call The Mussallem Law Firm at (904) 365-5200 for a FREE CONSULTATION. Our Jacksonville Drug Crimes Attorney, Victoria “Tori” Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.