Florida Supreme Court Rejects Car Color Criminal Case: Puts Brakes on Cops!
The Florida Supreme Court, in a landmark decision put the brakes on over policing Sheriff Deputies, who stop vehicles for “innocent” behavior and then form reasonable suspicion to search the driver, the occupants and their vehicles in Violation of the 4th Amendment of the United States Constitution. In State v. Teamer, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that a Sheriff acts unlawfully and unconstitutionally, when stopping drivers of automobiles, on the basis or suspicion of the vehicles color.
Law Enforcement Officials in Florida are scanning every license plate that they drive behind on the Florida roads. The “tag” information is then ran through the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) database. The information is stored in a computer data based system, which keeps track of the vehicle. In Teamer, the vehicle was considered a “vehicle of interest” because the two occupants drove the vehicle into and out of a high “drug” area. The over policing deputy ran the “tag” and when the color of the car did not match the color DMV had stored in its data base, the deputy stopped the vehicle. Therefore, the probable cause to stop the vehicle was formed by the deputy through the “paint color” of the vehicle.
After stopping the vehicle, the deputy claims to have smelled burning marijuana. The deputy was told by the driver that the vehicle was recently painted, but the deputy was not “buying” the story of the citizen. Because the deputy had a trained “nose” for smelling marijuana, he removed the occupants of the vehicle and detained them, meaning he handcuffed them and placed them in a position where their freedom to move was curtailed.
The over policing deputy then searched the vehicle and found cocaine. The deputy then charged the driver, Teamer, with trafficking in cocaine. Drug trafficking in Florida does not mean the drug was being transported, the drug was packaged for sale or the drug was actually being sold. In Florida, drug trafficking only means that the weight of the illegal substance was in excess of certain statutory amount, like here 28 grams or more of Cocaine. Drug trafficking in Florida has minimum mandatory sentences that range from a minimum of 3 years in prison for having as little as 4 grams or more of illegal substances like oxycodone, which equates to only 4 pills, to terms of Life in prison for those caught with more heavier amounts of drugs.
The driver in Teamer filed a motion to suppress, arguing that the “paint color” of an automobile cannot form the basis of a lawful traffic stop in Florida. The Florida Supreme Court actually agreed and got this one right. The Court went on to say that to warrant an investigatory stop, the law requires not just a mere suspicion of criminal activity, but a reasonable, well-founded one and the “color of an automobile” cannot meet this burden. The act of driving an automobile with questionable paint, none matching paint, objectionable paint or a paint scheme with something profane; does not form the investigative purpose for deputies to stop motorists and investigate them, their passengers or give them the right to search their automobiles.
The Florida Supreme Court has finally put the brakes on actions of runaway deputies who unlawfully, unconstitutionally and willy nilly stop citizens motorist with the latest decision in State v. Teamer. If you or a loved one was stopped in your automobile and subsequently arrested for articles found in your car, like drugs, weapons, stolen merchandise, or for any other automobile related crime, contact the protector of the 4th Amendment, West Palm Beach Criminal Lawyer, Andrew D. Stine. Hire Stine or Do the Time.