Florida Court Analyzes Reasonable Suspicion in Criminal Cases

The Constitution affords criminal defendants numerous rights, including protections against stops or searches without a warrant. There are some exceptions to the warrant requirement, though, such as when an officer has reasonable suspicion or probable cause to believe that a person is committing a crime. In a recent Florida opinion in a gun crime case in which the defendant argued his stop was unlawful, the court explained what factual scenario supports a probable cause finding. If you are charged with a gun crime, it is important to talk to a Tampa gun crime defense lawyer as soon as possible.

History of the Case

It is alleged that in December 2022, around midnight, a police officer noticed two individuals attempting to conceal themselves behind shipping containers at a big box store. The male, later identified as the defendant, was directed by the police officer to put down his bicycle and follow him to his squad car. The defendant resisted, leading to a chase. After catching up, the police officer tackled the defendant, and a subsequent search incident to arrest revealed a Taurus .357 revolver.

It is reported that the defendant, a convicted felon, was charged with knowingly possessing a firearm in violation of federal statutes. He filed a motion to suppress the evidence obtained by the officer, arguing that the stop and seizure was unlawful, as the officer lacked reasonable suspicion for the detention. Additionally, the defendant argued a Miranda violation, asserting he was questioned without proper warnings.

Reasonable Suspicion in Criminal Cases

The court ultimately rejected the defendant’s argument regarding the stop. In doing so, it explained that brief investigatory stops are permissible if supported by probable cause or reasonable suspicion. The court emphasized that law enforcement officers can detain individuals based on probable cause to believe they committed an offense.

In the subject case, the central issue was whether the officer had reasonable suspicion to stop and detain the defendant. The court noted that the encounter was captured on a police-worn body camera, providing clarity on the events. It suggested that, under the circumstances, the officer or any reasonable officer would have had probable cause to believe the defendant violated Florida’s anti-loitering statute, which criminalizes loitering or prowling in a manner not usual for law-abiding individuals, creating justifiable alarm for safety.

As such, the court found that the officer had probable cause, considering the defendant’s attempt to flee and recent criminal activity reports at Walmart. Consequently, the court denied the motion to suppress based on the legality of the stop.

The court granted the defendant’s motion with Miranda warnings, noting that the government did not intend to introduce the defendant’s statements during trial, so the decision would not impact the case.

Talk to a Skilled Tampa Criminal Defense Attorney

Under federal law, felons are prohibited from possessing guns, and if they are stopped with a weapon, they may be convicted of a crime. If you are accused of being a felon in possession of a weapon, it is in your best interest to talk to an attorney about your rights. The skilled Tampa gun crime defense lawyers of Hanlon Law take pride in helping people defend their interests in criminal proceedings, and if you hire us, we will advocate zealously on your behalf. You can contact Hanlon Law by using the form online or by calling us at 813-228-7095 to set up a meeting.