A Seminole Police Department (SPD) officer initiated a stop for speeding on a section of State Road 721 which was inside the Brighton Reservation. The SPD officer did not catch up to the SUV until it was well off the Reservation.
SPD jurisdiction exists only on the Reservation. However, the law allows an SPD officer to stop a driver off the Reservation if the traffic infraction took place on the Reservation.
Trouble is, the SPD officer acted like he still had police authority to search Ana Gomper’s (not her real name) SUV. Ana retained Indian River County criminal attorney Jeffrey Garland shortly after the incident. Garland promptly filed two motions to suppress after receipt of the discovery.
Garland contended the vehicle search was “illegal”, because Ana had refused consent. Even though the SPD officer had no jurisdiction, he searched the SUV and discovered marijuana out of view on the back seat floor. Garland contended that the marijuana should be suppressed.
After the SPD officer found this marijuana, he advised Ana and her fiancé that both would be arrested – unless someone took responsibility for the marijuana. Ana claimed ownership to avoid having her fiancé’s bond revoked, because he had a charge pending in Okeechobee County.
Garland contended that Ana’s admission was involuntary, because it was induced by the promise of a benefit. The benefit was the promise not to arrest the fiancé.
The hearing was set for August 29, 2018, before Judge Lundy. Instead of litigating these issues, the State filed a nolle prosse on August 28. All charges dropped!
Comment from Indian River County Drug Trafficking Attorney Jeffrey H. Garland
The law requires all drivers to stop when ordered to do so by a marked police car. Failing to stop can result in a felony of “flee and elude”.
Ana stopped, because she was required to do so. She stood on her constitutional rights and refused to consent to a search.
The SPD officer searched anyway and coerced Ana to make an admission by threatening to arrest both unless one “fessed up”.
At the end of the day, Ana prevailed, because the search was not proper and the statement was involuntary.