Wednesday, March 15, 2006


One might think that a search warrant is always required to search a home in Tampa Bay, Florida or to search a vehicle in Tampa Bay, Floida. But over the years courts and legislatures have carved a large number of exceptions to this general rule despite objections from Clearwater Criminal Defense Lawyers.

For example, if an officer is given consent to search, or if an officer observes illicit objects "in plain view" or if an officer fears for his or her safety or if the officer is in hot pursuit of a Defendant incident to a crime then no search warrant may be necessary.

An officer is under no requirment to be honest with a citizen and part of effective police tactics often entails giving an individual a false impression of the legal status of a particular search. A judge will not throw out a case based on mere misrepresentation unless it is egregious or outrageous.

Many years ago while I was a green prosecutor, fresh and newly mented out of law school, a friendly officer who was fairly new to Florida but had earlier been a cop in New Jersey for a number of years, laughingly told me about a Defendant who was so verbally abusive upon arrest for something trivial that he wished he'd had a "throw bag."

"Throw bag?" I asked (when I said I was green, I meant it).

He looked at me in disbelief that anyone could be so naive, "That's a bag of meth or crack cocaine we'd carry up North to throw down on a guy whose causing trouble."

The phrase they'd carry up North, with its past tense double denial of not me and not here, but it was the other officers and it was only in the North, led a Clearwater Criminal Defense Attorney to know that throw bags are a real threat to false convictions in Clearwater, Largo, St. Petersburg and Tampa Bay, Florida.

And recent Miami convictions of a number of police officers showed that the cops had thrown down a firearm at a crime scene to falsely prove that they'd shot a man in self-defense. The man they shot was actually unarmed. How did the case unravel? The firearm the police threw down had been taken from the police department's own evidence room. Search and Seizure, fake subpoenas and lack of warrants be damned, all that's really needed to convict an innocent man is one dishonest law enforcement officer.