FL2: Officer’s seizing pills he couldn’t identify as contraband violated Fourth Amendment

Officers seeing then seizing pills he couldn’t identify (Ritalin) until he later got on the Internet seized them without probable cause or reasonable suspicion. Gay v. State, 2014 Fla. App. LEXIS 7121 (Fla. 2d DCA May 14, 2014):

Here, neither the illegal nature of the possession of the pills nor the type of pills was known to the officer at the time he removed them from the vehicle. Nothing about the pills or pill box gave him a reasonable suspicion that Gay had committed, was committing, or was about to commit a crime. Nor did he know that any of the pills were controlled substances at the time he seized them. Pursuant to his own testimony at the suppression hearing, the officer did not know what the pills were when he opened the container so he took them back to his car. As in Smith, the officer did not testify that in his experience people carry illegally possessed prescription drugs in aftermarket pill boxes. See 95 So. 3d at 969. Nor did he state that he believed they were pills of an illicit nature or that Gay was in “unlawful possession of a controlled substance.” See Smith, 95 So. 3d at 969; see also Oliveira v. State, 527 So. 2d 959, 959 (Fla. 4th DCA 1988) (concluding “the [S]tate failed to present evidence that the officer had probable cause to believe the ‘prescription medicine’ he seized was an illegal substance”). “[T]he incriminating nature of the pills was not immediately apparent to the deputy” such that he could have immediately asked Gay for a prescription. See Smith, 95 So. 3d at 969; see also M.L., 47 So. 3d at 913. “The deputy did not testify as to any markings on the pills, or lack thereof, which helped him identify what they were ….” Smith, 95 So. 3d at 970. Moreover, the circumstances surrounding the officer’s search of the purse and the box do not justify such a suspicion.

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