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Second District Court Of Appeal Overturns Lower Court's Ruling Based On Illegal Search

By Expert Author: Aaron Dally

In the case of Forman v. State, the Court of Appeal reversed defendant's conviction & sentence for possessing cocaine in an occurrence stemming from an automobile accident. The defendant was traveling as a passenger in a vehicle that was involved in a car accident where the driver of that car was not at fault. After arriving as backup at the scene of the accident, a police officer saw defendant sitting in the front passenger seat of the car. The police officer testified in court that defendant was rocking back & forth in the seat and that he ordered defendant to exit the vehicle for officer safety. In his testimony, the officer was not to give any particular facts to justify his concern for officer safety. Defendant initially refused, but the officer ordered the defendant to get out of the vehicle. When the defendant was out of the car, the police officer noticed a bulge in defendant's waistband, searched him, & located cocaine. The defendant filed a motion to suppress at trial, but it was denied.

On appeal, the circuit court noted that, if defendant had been traveling as a passenger in a vehicle that had been legally stopped, the trial court would have been correct in denying defendant's motion to suppress. However, in this case the vehicle had been involved in a automobile accident and was not lawfully stopped. The District Court of Appeal based their ruling on the holding in Miranda v State. Miranda held that an officer cannot order a party to exit a vehicle without having reasonable suspicion that a crime has occurred. Therefore, the court overturned the denial of the defendant's motion and ordered the trial court to vacate his judgment and sentence.

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