Drug Trafficking Home Search Reversed
When you send something through the mail, the police check it for drugs. They have units called Interdiction, which look for drugs sent in transit. If they find something illegal, they don’t tell you right away. Instead, they secretly track the package until it’s delivered. That way, they arrest the person who claims the package.
After they place you under arrest, the police often search you, your car or your home. But does taking a package into a home give the police probable cause to search it? The Second District Court of Appeal answers that question in State v. Smitherman.
Home Search After a Drug Trafficking Arrest
Customs Agents in a Chicago, Illinois airport search a package and believe they find MDMA inside. Next, they insert a tracker inside the package to see where it goes. Then they give it to police in Fort Myers, Florida to deliver to the listed address for Smitherman. Someone from the post office delivers the package and asks if Smitherman lives here. A woman answers the door, says that Smitherman lives there and accepts the package for him. Via drone, police watch Smitherman leave that home with the package and go to another home.
After Smitherman takes the package inside, police arrest him in the open garage. Then they get a search warrant to search this second home because Smitherman brought the package to it. Police arrest him for two counts of Trafficking in Phenethylamine, Possession of Oxymetholone and Possession of Cannabis. He files a motion to suppress the search of the second house, which the judge denies. A jury convicts him on all counts at trial and then he files this appeal.
Package Doesn’t Provide Probable Cause for Search Warrant
Here, the Second District looks at whether the police lacked probable cause to search the second home. It points out that the search warrant affidavit only talks about the first address. Importantly, police deliver the package to the first home. Further, the package was addressed to the first home. The affidavit doesn’t mention the second home besides Smitherman happening to bring the package there. There’s no probable cause to believe any drugs would be found there besides the package. It’s just speculation.
The State argues that the police had probable because they knew there would be drugs at the second home once Smitherman brought the package inside. However, the Court rejects that argument. Basically, that would allow home searches when someone goes straight home after a drug deal. It opens the door to too many searches. Therefore, the Second District excludes from evidence the trafficking amount of Phenethylamine, Oxymetholone and Cannabis found inside the second home. The Court reverses the convictions for these three counts.
Read the Smitherman opinion here!
Talk to an Experienced Florida Criminal Defense Attorney!
Drug Trafficking offenses can be extremely complicated cases. Because people take steps to hide their crimes, law enforcement uses wire taps, search warrants, hidden cameras and other tools to gather evidence. In this case, police use a drone and tracker. They also use confidential informants, some of whom get paid or work off their own charges, to negotiate drug deals.
Maybe you’ve been entrapped by a confidential informant. Someone else made you pick up that bag. Maybe the government obtained evidence against you unconstitutionally. There aren’t the types of cases that every lawyer can properly defend. They require someone with an expertise in this field. Fortunately, Mr. Brown prosecuted Drug Trafficking offenses in a special unit dedicated to these crimes. He has also defended people accused of Trafficking in Cocaine, Opiates and more.
The criminal defense firm Brown Legal PLLC operates from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, but regularly handles cases throughout South Florida and the rest of the state. Before it’s too late, talk to Mr. Brown and see if he can help you best defend yourself! Reach out over the phone at (954) 524-6700 or through the Contact Page if you have any questions.