Rehearing Denied Jan. 12, 2012.
Pamela Jo Bondi, Attorney General, Tallahassee, and James J. Carney, Sr. Assistant Attorney General, West Palm Beach, for appellant.
Carey Haughwout, Public Defender, and Emily Ross-Booker, Assistant Public Defender, West Palm Beach, for appellee.
The issue presented for our review is whether the trial court erred in granting a motion to suppress where it found that a law enforcement officer did not have reasonable suspicion to stop appellee. We find that the trial court erred since, based on the officer's observations, there was probable cause that a crime had been or was being committed. We therefore reverse the order granting the motion to suppress.
Detective Redl of the Broward County Sheriff's Office was working as part of a selective enforcement team targeting narcotics and prostitution. On December 10, 2009, Detective Redl and another detective drove to a hotel, which was known for
narcotics and prostitution, within the City of Oakland Park. Detective Redl had made previous narcotics arrests at the hotel. In the parking lot, the detective observed appellee in a parked vehicle with the window down. He observed appellee lift the open part of a soda can horizontally to his mouth, while holding a lighter to the closed end of the soda can. Appellee inhaled and exhaled a white powdery smoke from what the detective described as a " makeshift crack pipe." During the motion to suppress hearing, the detective conceded that appellee could have been smoking something legal such as tobacco, but that with the " white powdery smoke," it resembled the smoke of " crack cocaine."
The detective approached the vehicle and asked for appellee's identification. Appellee appeared startled and dropped the soda can on the floorboard of the vehicle. The detective asked appellee to exit the vehicle. The detective retrieved the can and field tested the can, which came back positive for cocaine.
Appellee was arrested and charged with possession of cocaine. Appellee challenged the stop and the trial court granted a motion to suppress the cocaine. The trial court stated:
Well, this one was an interesting case as all the suppression motions usually are. The Court can say if I were a law enforcement officer and I was on duty that night and I witnessed someone smoking out of a converted can, I probably would have taken the same actions.
[I]n this case, the Court does not find it to be enough. Even though if we are looking at what is more probable, more probable that is a crushed cola can, carburetor on the side or whatever it had in order to convert it into a smoking device, was more likely to probably contain a narcotic, then it was to have some type of pipe tobacco.
The trial court granted the motion to suppress, concluding that the detective did not have a " well-founded suspicion before having Mr. Blaylock exit the vehicle.... Mr. Blaylock was seized without the officer first having a well-founded ...