As a Jacksonville criminal lawyer, a lot of people ask me questions about criminal cases or stories that they have heard. You cannot believe everything that you hear. In some cases, it is not true. Other cases are exaggerated or parts of the story have been left out. People often ask about drug cases. They want to know how drug cases get thrown out. They want to know how a drug charge is dropped or dismissed. There is no one answer to this question. A Florida drug charge, just like any criminal case, may be dropped or dismissed based on a variety of reasons.
Many people believe that a charge was dropped, when in actuality a plea agreement was reached. For instance, your friend was arrested for possession of cocaine in Jacksonville. He went to court a few times in Duval County, and the case was closed. You believed that his charges were dropped. In actuality, he pleaded no contest and paid court costs. His charges were not dropped.
In some cases, a defendant’s criminal charges will be dropped due to a lack of evidence. If the state attorney’s office does not have enough evidence to prove a case, the charges may be dropped. For example, police stop a car with several people in it. The police officer finds marijuana in the vehicle. The police arrest the driver for possession of cannabis in Jacksonville. Depending on the facts and evidence, the state may not be able to prove constructive possession of the marijuana. This could result in the case being dismissed.
A Jacksonville criminal attorney’s successful motion to suppress may also result in Florida drug charges being dropped. If the judge grants a motion to suppress evidence and the state attorney needs the evidence to prove the case, the state may end up dropping the charges if the evidence will not be admitted at trial. A viable motion to suppress does not exist in every case. It is not a common occurrence. There must be grounds for the motion to suppress. Here is a Florida firearm and marijuana case in which the appeals court ruled that the trial court should have granted a motion to suppress evidence. In Oliver v. State, the Florida Fifth District Court of Appeals had to decide whether a defendant was seized in violation of the 4th amendment and whether the defendant’s motion to suppress should have been granted due to the seizure. The facts of the case as set forth by the Florida court are as follows:
“Oliver was the passenger in a car that a police officer stopped for an inoperable tag light. After the stop, another officer and his K–9 came to the scene so that the K–9 could conduct an exterior search of the vehicle. Before conducting that search, the K–9 officer ordered Oliver and the driver to keep their hands on the dashboard. As noted by the trial judge, who had the benefit of a videotape of the encounter, the officer told Oliver three times to ‘keep his hands on the f* * *ing dashboard.’ Although we were not provided a copy of that videotape, we can easily discern that this directive was not conversational in tone. After the K–9 alerted the officers to the presence of drugs in the car, Oliver was searched and marijuana and a firearm were discovered on his person.” Oliver v. State, 157 So. 3d 495, 496 (Fla. 5th DCA 2015)
The Florida appellate court looked to the reasoning of the United State Supreme Court in United States v. Mendenhall, 446 U.S. 544. “The Supreme Court reasoned that a person is seized ‘only when, by means of physical force or a show of authority, his freedom of movement is restrained.’ Id. at 553, 100 S.Ct. 1870. It elaborated that ‘[o]nly when such restraint is imposed is there any foundation whatever for invoking constitutional safeguards.’ Id. This determination is based upon the totality of the circumstances. See id. at 554, 100 S.Ct. 1870.” Oliver, 157 So. 3d at 496.
The Florida trial court denied Oliver’s attorney’s motion to suppress reasoning that Oliver never tried to leave. “However, the issue is not whether Oliver actually made such an effort. Rather, the focus should have been on whether, under the circumstances, a reasonable person would have believed he was free to leave…. The language and tone of voice used are among the factors specifically noted in Mendenhall as being relevant in determining whether compliance with an officer’s request was compelled.” Oliver, 157 So. 3d at 496.
The court pointed out that every case is different. “In this case, the officers had no basis to believe that the occupants of the car constituted a danger. Neither Oliver nor the driver exhibited any furtive or suspicious behaviors. The K–9 officer ordered Oliver to place his hands on the dashboard because that was his routine. The K–9 officer’s need to watch the dog perform the search rather than watch the occupants of the car was obviated by the other officer’s presence.” Id. at 497.
As you can tell, there is no bright line rule as to how to get your Florida criminal case dropped or dismissed. Every case has different facts and different laws apply to those facts. The best thing that you can do is talk to your Jacksonville criminal lawyer about your case in particular. Your attorney is the best person to assess whether or not you have ground for a motion to suppress.