FL5: Valid stop can be based on mistaken facts and still be reasonable

The question for validity of a stop is probable cause, not the defendant’s ultimate guilt. Fourth Amendment reasonableness allows for reasonable mistakes of fact. The trial court erred in granting the motion to suppress where the stop was still reasonable. State v. Parker, 2021 Fla. App. LEXIS 2038 (Fla. 5th DCA Feb. 12, 2021):

On appeal, our court framed the determinative issue as “whether the officers had probable cause to believe that the windows of the car in which Wimberly was riding were illegally tinted, not whether the windows were actually illegally tinted.” Id. at 119. We reminded that “[a] traffic stop based on an officer’s incorrect but reasonable assessment of the facts does not violate the Fourth Amendment,” Id. (citing Saucier v. Katz, 533 U.S. 194, 205, 121 S. Ct. 2151, 150 L. Ed. 2d 272 (2001); United States v. Chanthasouxat, 342 F.3d 1271, 1276 (11th Cir. 2003)), and that if the officer’s traffic stop is based on a mistake of fact, the trial court must then determine whether the officer’s mistake of fact was reasonable. Id. We concluded that the trial court erred in granting the motion to suppress because it applied an incorrect standard when it held that because the window tint was legal, the traffic stop was therefore invalid. Id. at 120. We reversed the suppression order for further consideration of the motion under the proper legal standard. Id.

As previously indicated, the trial court here erred when it did not apply the objective test under Whren that required it to resolve whether the deputies had probable cause to believe that Parker had committed a traffic violation. Accordingly, because the court applied an incorrect standard in determining the constitutional validity of the stop, we reverse the order granting the motion to suppress and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

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