Tampa Criminal Defense Attorney, Leslie Sammis, discusses a recent case result in a drug trafficking case decided in Tampa, Hillsborough County, FL.
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Case Dismissed after Attorneys Win Motion to Suppress Hearing - Client Avoids 25 Year Minimum Mandatory Sentence on Drug Trafficking Charges
Result: On October 22, 2009, the Honorable Denise A. Pomponio, Circuit Court Judge for Tampa, Hillsborough County, FL, heard from three witnesses during a hearing and then granted our clients motion to suppress evidence - more than 28 grams of Oxycontin. Because the motion suppressed all evidence in the case, Judge Pomponio then granted our motion to dismiss all charges including Count I for drug trafficking and Count II for obstructing or opposing an officer with violence. The client was completely not guilty of all charges in Case Number 2009-CF-011782.
Facts Leading to the Dismissal: Two narcotics detectives with the Temple Terrace Police Department in Hillsborough County, FL, received information from a confidential informant (confidential source) that a certain named individual with an outstanding warrant was "hiding out" at a certain address in a certain apartment complex. The Temple Terrace Detectives also had information about the type of vehicle the individual was driving, including the tag number. The Temple Terrace Police also had information from a law enforcement officer with the USF Police Department that this individual was selling drugs and guns at the USF college campus. The detectives went to that address after receiving the tip from the CI and saw our client driving the same vehicle and parking in front of the same apartment building.
As our client exited the vehicle, the officers approached our client and started questioning him about whether he was the individual they were looking for. Our client was not the person the police were looking for, although he was driving the same vehicle named in the tip from the confidential informant. In the process of detaining him, the Temple Terrace Narcotics Detectives alleged that they smelled marijuana coming from the vehicle and our client.
Although the Temple Terrace officers determined that our client was not the individual that they were looking for, they searched our clients vehicle based on the smell of marijuana and allegedly found more than 40 grams of Oxycontin pills under the driver's seat. The Temple Terrace Detectives also arrested our client for obstruction with violence after they said he tried to run and had to be wrestled to the ground.
The issue at the motion to suppress hearing was whether the officers had acted in good faith when the officers made a mistake relating to serving a valid arrest warrant. In deciding whether the "good faith" exception applied, the appellate courts have held that the search is constitutional if the officers reasonably and in good faith mistook the person arrested for the person with the outstanding arrest warrant. See McCrea v. State, 475 So.2d 1357 (Florida 4th DCA 1985); Neal v. State, 456 So.2d 897, 898 (Florida 1985) (where police have a valid outstanding warrant to arrest one person, and reasonably mistake a second person for the first person, then the arrest of the latter person is valid).
We were able to show the court during testimony at the suppression hearing that our client looked nothing like the individual wanted by the police, although both individuals were black males. Furthermore, we were able to show inconsistencies in the officers testimony about observations they made of our client before the stop occurred. We were also able to show that although the officers claimed that they all smelled marijuana before conducting the search of the vehicle, no marijuana was actually found, and the officers disagreed with each other during the motion to suppress hearing about whether they smelled burnt or fresh marijuana.
Trafficking in Illegal Drugs (28 grams to 30 Kilograms) in violation of Florida Statute 893.135(1)(c)1c is a first degree felony that is punishable by a maximum of 30 years and has a minimum mandatory sentence of 25 years. This means that if convicted of that crime, the Court must impose the 25 year minimum mandatory sentence under many circumstances, and the client must serve that sentence day for day.
Filing and litigating innovative motions to suppress is often the most important part of fighting any drug trafficking case. These serious felony cases require a tremendous amount of work because your Tampa drug trafficking attorney must thoroughly investigate every issue in the case by taking the depositions of every state witness, filing the appropriate motions to suppress or motions to dismiss, gathering evidence to present at the hearing, and thoroughly preparing legal arguments addressing all of the relevant Florida case law on any particular issue in the case.
If you have been arrested for a serious drug offense such as trafficking in a controlled substance or armed trafficking in Tampa, Hillsborough County, FL, call an experienced attorney at the Sammis Law Firm to discuss your case today. Call 813-250-0500 today or visit our main website to learn more information about drug trafficking charges under Florida law at www.SammisLawFirm.com.