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State Attorney's Office in Tampa, Hillsborough County, FL, DROPS All Charges on the Day of Trial.
Results in Case No. 2009-MM-017082 in Tampa Hillsborough County, FL before Lawrence M. Lefler, County Court Judge:
On October 26, 2009, the State Attorney's Office announces a "Nol Prosse" which means they dropped all charges on the day of jury selection. At the time, we had three motions pending: (1) a motion to suppressed based on a bad stop and prolonged detention; (2) a motion to dismissed based on lack of evidence of constructive possession; and (3) a notice of expiration of speedy trial which forced the prosecutor to pick a jury and proceed to trial on October 26, 2009, the last day of the 15 day recapture period.
Facts Leading to Case Being "Nol Prossed":
Our client was driving in Tampa when he was stopped by for not dimming his headlights. After the investigatory stop the officer determined that the head lights were not on high but were instead "improperly aimed." The officer then asked the driver and two passengers to search the vehicle. No drugs were found in plain view, but the Hillsborough County Sheriff did allegedly find marijuana which the officer thought was packaged in a manner consistent will the intention to sell the cannabis. Therefore the officer arrested our client for possession of cannabis with the intent to sell even through the amount of marijuana found was less than 20 grams.
After the arrest, the State Attorney's Office took 21 days to make a filing decision. During that time we discussed with the intake prosecutor the following motions that we could raise to prevent a successful prosecution:
- Motion to suppress the initial stop since no traffic violation occurred, and no other legal basis existed to stop the vehicle;
- Motion to suppress evidence since the detention was prolonged longer than necessary for the officer to figure out that he had no legal basis for the stop and/or figure out whether he was not going to issue a traffic citation;
- Motion to suppress evidence since the detention was prolonged after the driver was told that no citation would be issued.
- Motion to suppress warrantless search which was without free and voluntary consent, especially considering that under the circumstances, no free or voluntary consent was possible when three officers had surrounded the vehicle and continued the detention after allegedly telling the driver no citation would be issued.
- Motion to dismiss or JOA motion because there was insufficient evidence of constructive possession as a matter of law when the driver was not the only person in the vehicle, no one claimed knowledge of the presence of the contraband, and the contraband was not in plain view.
- Motion to dismiss or JOA motion because there was insufficient evidence to show that our client possessed the marijuana with the intention to sell solely because of the way it was packaged.
The intake prosecutor ultimately decided not to file the felony charges given all of the issues in the case, however the intake prosecutor did file charges for Possession of Cannabis less than 20 grams and Possession of Drug Paraphernalia.
In a misdemeanor case under Florida law, the speedy trial period is only 90 days. The period trial ran on September 25, 2009 which was before the first disposition court date. After the speedy time period ran out, we filed a notice of expiration of speedy trial on October 9, 2009. That same day we also filed a motion to suppress because of the bad stop, prolonged detention, and lack of probable cause for the arrest. We also filed a motion to dismiss under Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.190(c)(4) because the undisputed facts showed that despite the fact the marijuana was found in the vehicle, it was not in plain view and none of the occupants of the vehicle made any statements to claim ownership of the marijuana.
The Court scheduled a hearing on the notice of expiration of speedy trial within 5 business dates on October 15, 2009. At the hearing the Court was required to set the case for trial within 10 calendar days. At the hearing the Court ruled that it would hear the other motions immediately before trial and that a jury would be selected and sworn on October 26, 2009, the last day of the 15 day recapture period.
Instead of proceeding to trial on October 26, 2009, the State "nol prossed" or announced its desire to drop the charges of possession of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia. Our client was completely exonerated of all charges.
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