Seizure | When has a Suspect or Defendant been Seized?

A seizure occurs when a reasonable person in the defendant’s position would not feel free to terminate the encounter.

Detention Arrest Seizure Florida

When has a Seizure of a Suspect or Defendant Occurred?

Recently I reviewed a case where the cop told a suspect that if he moved, he would be shot. He was not handcuffed or arrested at that point. Was this a seizure? YES The term “seizure” is an important concept in criminal defense. A person can be “seized” before he is actually restrained by physical force at the moment when, given all the circumstances, a reasonable person would believe he is not free to leave. Michigan v. Chesternut, 486 U.S. 567, 573 (1988). As the Supreme Court reaffirmed in Florida v. Bostick,, the test for determining whether a Terry stop has taken place “is whether a reasonable person would feel free to decline the officers’ requests or otherwise terminate the encounter.” 501 U.S. at 436.

Under Florida law the question of a seizure turns on “whether, taking into account all of the circumstances surrounding the encounter, the police conduct would ‘have communicated to a reasonable person that he was not at liberty to ignore the police presence and go about his business.'” Bostick at 437. The court stressed in Chesternut that there is a need for a seizure test which “calls for consistent application from one police encounter to the next” and permits police “to determine in advance whether the conduct contemplated will implicate the Fourth Amendment.” Chesternut at 574.

“Law enforcement officers do not violate the Fourth Amendment by merely approaching an individual on the street or in another public place, by asking him if he is willing to answer some questions, by putting questions to him if the person is willing to listen, or by offering in evidence in a criminal prosecution his voluntary answers to such questions.” Florida v. Royer, 460 U.S. 491, 497; 523, n. 3 (REHNQUIST, J., dissenting).

History of Cell Phone Searches

Cell Phone Search Warrant
Search Warrant
Cell Phone
Up until quite recently, there were exceptions to the general requirement that police get a Search Warrant for a cell phone. Cell phones have been a window into suspects’ activities, as police used these exceptions to get their hands on information found inside mobile devices. Obtaining a Search Warrant for a cell phone is not that hard to do. You can review a Search Warrant for a Cell Phone here:  Here is an actual iPhone Search Warrant . GPS or Global Positioning Satellite information found in mobile phones has also been used by police. 
Up until around 2014, police could and did search digital information on a cell phone seized from an individual who was arrested. Defense Attorneys would frequently challenge such searches. These searches were frequently based upon “helping” arrested citizens by making sure their property was properly inventoried by the arresting officers for safekeeping by jail personnel or by the evidence unit at the arresting agency’s office. This rationale remains a frequent flier in broad invasive “inventory” searches of automobiles during traffic stops.

Cell Phone Search, Search and Seizure, Search Warrant

Cell Phone Search, Search and Seizure, Search Warrant
Warrant Required
Mobile Devices
Florida had outlawed warrantless phone searches before the US Supreme Court. That ruling is discussed here. Now prohibited will be mobile device and cell phone searches without a warrant. Before the 2014 United States Supreme Court ruling here was another Court’s Ruling on a Cell Phone Search. Searches Incident to a lawful arrest were previously justified by cops using issues of police officer safety and prevention of destruction of evidence.
Now under Floridalaw, a Motion to Suppress Evidence can be filed pursuant to Rule 3.190(h), Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure. Illegal Search and seizure now applies to cell phones and the Courts may exclude illegally obtained evidence including, photographs, video, text messages, directory and location data, voice mails, and emails.
Case Summary: The US Supreme Court’s ruling is that a properly obtained and issued search warrant is generally required before search of a cell phone. Here is some language from the Court’s ruling. 
“Cell phones differ in both a quantitative and a qualitative sense from other objects that might be kept on an arrestee’s person. The term “cell phone” is itself misleading shorthand; many of these devices are in fact minicomputers that also happen to have the capacity to be used as a telephone. They could just as easily be called cameras,video players, rolodexes, calendars, tape recorders, libraries, diaries, albums, televisions, maps, or newspapers.”
“The sum of an individual’s private life can be reconstructed through a thousand photographs labeledwith dates, locations, and descriptions; the same cannot besaid of a photograph or two of loved ones tucked into a wallet.”
“To further complicate the scope of the privacy interests at stake, the data a user views on many modern cell phones may not in fact be stored on the device itself. Treating a cell phone as a container whose contents may be searched incident to an arrest is a bit strained as an initial matter.”
“[T]he search incident to arrest exception does not apply to cell phones . . . .”
Some Excerpts from Florida Cases:
“However, we express great concern in permitting the officer to search appellant’s cell phone here where there was no indication the officer had reason to believe the cell phone contained evidence.”
“We are equally concerned that giving officers unbridled discretion to rummage through at will the entire contents of one’s cell phone, even where there is no basis for believing evidence of the crime of arrest will be found on the phone, creates a serious and recurring threat to the privacy of countless individuals.”

Cell Phone Search Incident to Arrest

Cell Phone Warrantless Search

Tampa Criminal Defense Attorney / Lawyer continues to follow recent developments in the search of cellular telephones / cell phones. One Florida court has just ruled in a 33 page opinion that pictures in a cell phone obtained from a suspect who had been arrested were inadmissible at trial since they had been seized during a warrantless search.

The court ruled:
“We are equally concerned that giving officers unbridled discretion to rummage through at will the entire contents of one’s cell phone, even where there is no basis for believing evidence of the crime of arrest will be found on the phone, creates a serious and recurring threat to the privacy of countless individuals. Were we free to do so, we would find, given the advancement of technology with regards to cell phones and other similar portable electronic devices, officers may only search cell phones incident to arrest if it is reasonable to believe evidence relevant to the crime of arrest might be found on the phone. Here, there was no evidence the officer had such a reasonable belief.”

“Modern cell phones can contain as much memory as a personal computer and could conceivably contain the entirety of one’s personal photograph collection, home videos, music library, and reading library, as well as calendars, medical information, banking records, instant messaging, text messages, voicemail, call logs, and GPS history. Cell phones are also capable of accessing the internet and are, therefore, capable of accessing information beyond what is stored on the phone’s physical memory. For example, cell phones may also contain web browsing history, emails from work and personal accounts, and applications for accessing Facebook and other social networking sites. Essentially, cell phones can make the entirety of one’s personal life available for perusing by an officer every time someone is arrested for any offense.”

“However, we express great concern in permitting the officer to search appellant’s cell phone here where there was no indication the officer had reason to believe the cell phone contained evidence.”

Cell Phone Search

Defense Attorney on Cell Phone Search | Evidence Suppressed

Cell Phone Search Suppressed
Criminal Defense Attorney / Lawyer notes a recent Cell Phone Search ruling on a Motion to Suppress Evidence, filed pursuant to Rule 3.190(h), Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure. Search and seizure law can apply to cell phones. Lately cops have been searching the phones and calling them a Search incident to arrest. Sometimes cops claim they need to search a phone for the safety of the officer. One court just ruled that a cell phone seized incident to defendant’s arrest posed no risk to officer safety. The scope of a search has been limited, since a cellular telephone is not a container that could hold weapon. Sometimes police justify a search claiming that evidence will be destroyed. A court just ruled that once a phone was seized, there was no longer risk that defendant could destroy evidence in phone. The court concluded that a warrantless search of contents of cell phone was unlawful and a Motion to Suppress was granted.

Cell Phone Search Questions? Call Me Toll Free 1-877-793-9290.

Defense alleged an unlawful search of the Defendant’s cellular telephone including: texts, pictures, the call history, and/or observations made by Officer. Testimony showed cop “found the Defendant’s cell phone while searching his person at the scene, but then later examined the cell phone further at the police station while the Defendant was still being processed. Officer Clark testified that he found text messages regarding the sale of cocaine while he was looking through the Defendant’s phone.”

Court ruled, “When an officer arrests someone who has a cell phone in their possession, here may very well be reason to suspect that the phone contains valuable information, particularly in drug-related arrests. The call logs and address books could help link a defendant to a particular drug transaction and could provide the identities of other persons involved in the illegal activity; however, these are exactly the types of situations where probable cause could be used to obtain a warrant. The reality is that most information stored on a cell phone will remain there long enough for a warrant to be secured and that numbers “lost” from recent call lists are readily obtainable from the service provider. Cell phones are outside the ambit of the search incident to arrest exception‘s reach because of their capacity for storing vast quantities of intimately personal data. If courts continue to allow the unfettered exploration of this personal data, then courts are permitting the government to execute an unwarranted search of the cell phone user’s life and habits. This intrusion cannot reasonably be justified by the rationales of officer safety and evidence preservation; therefore, a simple seizure of the cell phone must suffice until a warrant can be procured.”

The Court’s Ruling on the Cell Phone Search is Here.

Cell Phone Search Questions? Call Me Toll Free 1-877-793-9290.

Source: FLWSUPP 1805GLAS

Criminal Defense Attorney / Lawyer

Gun and Drug Evidence Suppressed

Gun Suppressed
Tampa Defense Attorney recently studied a court ruling where a gun and drugs were thrown out after an illegal pat down was ruled  a warrantless search. In this Tampa court, the trial judge ruled a Pat down search of a defendant was lawful. The Appeals panel ruled otherwise, finding the officers did not have reasonable suspicion that the defendant was armed with a dangerous weapon.

The defendant was walking along highway and did not comply with an officers’ requests to keep his hands out of his pockets. That fact alone was not sufficient to establish reasonable suspicion. The cops saw no weapons and did not notice bulges in the defendant’s clothing to indicate that he was carrying a weapon.  Motion to suppress firearm and drugs discovered during pat down should have been granted.
Case Excerpt: “This case presents the issue of two conflicting interests: the Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures and the ongoing concern for officer safety in an increasingly dangerous profession. But even though the facts of this case reveal an alarming result of the pat-down—a gun—we are not permitted to be distracted by the fruit of the search. Instead, our focus must be on the justification for the search. See D.B.P. v. State, 31 So. 3d 883, 887 (Fla. 5th DCA 2010) (“The success of the search . . . is not now and never has been the test to be applied.”)”

. . .

“For a weapons pat-down search to be valid, an officer must identify objective facts indicating that the person detained is armed and dangerous. See Howell v. State, 725 So. 2d 429, 431 (Fla. 2d DCA 1999). But here, the only justification provided by the officers was the fact that Dawson refused to comply with their requests to keep his hands out of his pockets. That fact—standing alone—was insufficient to establish reasonable suspicion. The comment made by one officer that he believed Dawson “could have contraband or a weapon” was simply unsupported by any identifiable objective facts to lead him to that conclusion. Because “routine patdown searches based on general concern for officer safety are not constitutionally permitted,” McNeil v. State, 995 So. 2d 525, 526 (Fla. 2d DCA 2008), the officers lacked reasonable suspicion to conduct a pat-down search of Dawson and the trial court erred by denying the suppression motion.”

The Complete Pat Down Opinion is available for download here.

Source: 36 Fla. L. Weekly D804a

Tampa Attorney on Search and Seizure | Incident to Arrest | Vehicle

Search and Seizure Vehicle Glovebox

For this Tampa Criminal Defense Attorney, Search and seizure of a vehicle glove box has been the subject of a recent research project. Vehicles are frequently searched Incident to arrest. One court ruled that Police could not reasonably believe there would be evidence relevant to crime of fleeing and eluding found in a vehicle’s glove compartment. The cop said he saw “furtive movements” near the glove box. The cops claimed officer safety concerns. The court found  at time of the vehicle search, the defendant was handcuffed, not near the car, and in the custody of backup officers. The trial court tossed the evidence seized in the car. and the appeals court agreed.

Search and Seizure Questions? Ask me Toll Free 1-877-793-9290 .

Source: 35 Fla. L. Weekly D533b

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