In Florida, many drug cases start out as routine traffic stops. A police officer stops a driver for violating some traffic law, suspects that the driver has drugs in the vehicle and then ultimately searches the occupants and/or the vehicle, either after walking a drug dog around the vehicle or getting consent to search from the driver or determining some other basis for probable cause. However, if the initial traffic stop is not valid, any drugs found in the vehicle or on one of the occupants of the vehicle should be thrown out.
In a recent possession of marijuana case near Jacksonville, Florida, the defendant was stopped because he was driving his vehicle without a center rear view mirror. After stopping the defendant for that reason, the police officer said he saw bags of marijuana on the driver’s lap and arrested him for possession of marijuana.
The criminal defense lawyer filed a motion to suppress the evidence of the marijuana because the initial stop of the vehicle was illegal. The police officer was incorrect in assuming it is illegal to drive without a center rear view mirror. For that reason, the police officer did not have a valid basis to stop the driver. Since the initial stop was not legal, the evidence of the marijuana found after the stop was not admissible in court, and the possession of marijuana charge was thrown out.