In a case recently in Florida, the police were called out to an apartment complex on an anonymous complaint of drug activity. The caller told police that there was heavy traffic coming from one apartment in particular and that was because the occupant was selling drugs. Police went to the apartment and the door was open. The defendant was in the kitchen wiping his counter with a paper towel. The police saw a digital scale on the counter with a white powder substance and straw on it. The police then entered the apartment and detained the defendant. They found 2 bags of cocaine in the defendant’s pants and arrested him for possession of cocaine.
The defendant’s criminal lawyer argued that the court should suppress the drugs because it was a warrantless search of a home. According to Florida law, drugs can be seized from a home without a warrant if the police see the drugs from a place where they have a right to be, the officer knows the drugs are illegal, AND the officer has the right to access the drugs.
The appellate court in this case found that the search was illegal and ordered the lower court to reverse the conviction for possession of cocaine. The court found that there was no evidence that the defendant even knew the police were in his doorway and that the police did not know what he was wiping on his counter. (they couldn’t tell it was, in fact, illegal drugs)