Two references to search warrants at defendant’s premises became prejudicial character evidence by seeking to link him to other drugs. Conviction reversed. Dawson v. State, 2019 Fla. App. LEXIS 10847 (Fla. 4th DCA July 10, 2019):
In the present case, although the prosecutor and witnesses did not directly state that Defendant was involved in prior criminal activity like the witnesses in Jones, the multiple improper references to the search warrant had the effect of informing the jury that Defendant’s residence was the subject of illegal drug activity and that Defendant was the “target.” The clear implication being that Defendant had previously engaged in illegal drug activity sufficient to justify a search warrant. Moreover, despite the two curative instructions, the multiple references to the search warrant clearly had an impact on the jury as evidenced by the question posed during deliberations.
The State nonetheless argues that the references to the search warrant were proper because they were inextricably intertwined with the crimes charged and necessary to demonstrate that the seizing officers were in a position where they had a legitimate right to be. We disagree because it was unnecessary to inform the jury that Defendant’s residence was the subject of a narcotics search warrant or that Defendant was the “target.”
. . .
Alternatively, the State argues that the references to the search warrant were harmless because, by asking “[w]hat was the warrant for and what address was the warrant to be executed at,” the jury evidently did not connect Defendant to the search warrant. Even if we were to assume that the jury did not directly connect Defendant to the search warrant, the fact remains that the jury clearly considered the search warrant during its deliberations. Under these circumstances, it is simply impossible to conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that the jury’s verdict was not swayed by the improper references to the search warrant. See O’Connor v. State, 835 So. 2d 1226, 1232 (Fla. 4th DCA 2003).
Based upon the foregoing, the multiple references to the search warrant were improper and severely prejudiced Defendant as evidenced by the jury’s question about the search warrant. Accordingly, Defendant is entitled to a new trial.