A Dade City man charged and previously convicted of possession of marijuana over 20 grams, was given a second chance by the 2nd District Court of Appeals. As a result of the Second DCA’s ruling, the trial court’s denial of the defense’s Motion to Suppress filed to suppress all of the evidence collected (marijuana) as a result of an unlawful search will be reversed and the man’s case will now be dismissed. Amison, Jr. v. State, 2009 WL 839031 (Fla.App. 2 Dist.)
By way of background, a Florida Fish and Wildlife Officer in April of 2007 noticed a pickup truck backing out from a river bank. The officer activated his lights and stopped the vehicle for “a resource inspection.” According to testimony taken at the suppression hearing, the arresting officer was he smelled marijuana coming from the vehicle. Then, for officer safety both the driver and passenger were handcuffed and searched. After being handcuffed, they admitted to smoking a joint earlier and the vehicle was searched. The search of the truck resulted in the marijuana over 20 grams. This charge is a third degree felony punishable up to five years Florida state prison.
The 2nd DCA overruled the Judge stating that there is no extra exception afforded to Florida Fish and Wildlife for “resource inspections”. The court also explained that the officer still needed the normal “reasonable suspicion” to make such a stop and that all of the evidence should have been suppressed as fruit of an unlawful stop.
The interesting part of the case is that the Pasco County State Attorney’s Office at the trial court level supported their arguments with caselaw out of the Federal Court from the Northern District of Florida which is somewhat atypical–most attorneys would argue that the fact that the prosecution only had federal caselaw to support their position exemplifies the weakness of their case. The Florida’s Second District Court of Appeal agreed and found that those opinions aren’t binding. In fact, it appears that even the State’s appellate attorney abandoned the use of that case in writing the response to the appeal.