What Is an Unlawful Traffic Stop in Florida?
An unlawful traffic stop occurs where the police do not have a lawful or valid reason for pulling you over, yet they pull you over anyway.
For example, a cop can’t pull you over just to see if you have drugs in the car. That would be an unlawful reason for pulling someone over and would be an unlawful traffic stop.
The uniform traffic code provides a list of traffic and vehicle infractions that highway patrolman are allowed to pull you over for.
A traffic stop effectuated because of a valid infraction may be a lawful reason for pulling you over, depending on the circumstances.
Exclusionary Rule with an Unlawful Traffic Stop in Florida?
The exclusionary rule is a constitutional safeguard used to protect the 4th Amendment. The 4th Amendment says people shall be free from unreasonable searches and seizures.
The exclusionary rule comes along and says that in order for the 4th Amendment to actually mean something, all evidence obtained from an unreasonable search and seizure should be excluded. Hence, the exclusionary rule. The exclusionary rule applies to an unlawful traffic stop as well.
Applying the exclusionary rule to an unlawful traffic stop in Florida: If a cop stops somebody for an unlawful reason (i.e. unlawful traffic stop) and finds drugs, or any unlawful contraband for that matter, then the contraband should be suppressed (excluded from being introduced at any trial relating to the contraband found inside the vehicle).
Case Example of How an Unlawful Traffic Stop Works in Florida:
In State v. Murphy, 793 So.2d 112 (Fla. 2nd DCA 2001) the 2nd District Court of Appeals looked at a case where a deputy ran a tag check on a vehicle and the tag check told the Deputy that the vehicle was not properly registered. The Deputy used that information to pull the Defendant over.
Upon walking up to the Defendant’s vehicle, the deputy could smell marijuana and subsequently discovered drugs in the car. It later turned out that the tag check that the cop had run was false information. A glitch in the system caused the incorrect information to be displayed to the Officer at the time of the stop.
The reality was that the Defendant had properly registered his vehicle. The 2nd District Court of Appeals stated that the drug evidence should be thrown out and excluded. The Court said that there was no lawful basis for pulling the vehicle over, as his tag was correctly registered. Had the officer known that his tag was correct, then there would have been no basis for the stop.
Therefore the stop was an unlawful traffic stop and the drugs should have been suppressed.