Previously I wrote about Florida’s Noise statute being declared unconstitutional. That statute was often used by deputies to pull your car over in order to search your vehicle. This week the Fifth District Court of Appeal overruled a circuit court order when the police officer pulled the driver over for having no mirror on their car. What’s wrong with that? There is no law that requires a motor vehicle have a side view mirror. So, officers can just make up a law to pull your car over? Absolutely not!
In this case, a law enforcement officer testified that he saw the defendant's vehicle driving toward him, and he noticed that the vehicle did not have a center rearview mirror. At the suppression hearing, the police officer testified that he thought this was a traffic violation and, therefore, stopped the vehicle. When the officer went to talk to the defendant, he saw three baggies of marijuana on the defendant's lap.
The defendant was charged with possession of cocaine and possession of 20 grams or less of marijuana. The arrested driver filed a motion to suppress the drugs based on the fact that the discovery of the drugs resulted from an unlawful seizure because the police lacked reasonable suspicion to conduct a traffic stop of his vehicle. The trial court denied the suppression motion. The defendant then pled no contest reserving his right to appeal the denial of his motion to suppress.
The appellate court agreed with the defendant driver and threw all the evidence out of court (cocaine and cannabis). The court of appeal held that an officer's mistake of law as to what constitutes a traffic violation cannot provide reasonable suspicion justifying a traffic stop. Florida law only requires a vehicle to have “a mirror so located as to reflect to the driver a view of the highway for a distance of at least 200 feet to the rear of the motor vehicle.” This is pursuant to Florida Statute 316.294. This statute does not require a center rearview mirror if one or more side mirrors meet this requirement. The cop was wrong about the law and the criminal charges will be dismissed because there no longer is any evidence to prove the driver possessed drugs or who actually was the driver as his identity is subject to suppression. In every criminal case, the prosecutor must prove who committed the crime and I.D. can be suppressed.
If you were previously pulled over for any reason and were arrested, the police may have made a mistake. Call an aggressive Polk County criminal defense lawyer that keeps up-to-date on the latest criminal case law. If you do not have an attorney who reads the latest criminal statutes and rulings you will not get the best result to your criminal case.
Call Thomas C. Grajek now and go to court with a an attorney that will fight for you!
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