Clayton v. State

616 So. 2d 615 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 1993)

Summary of Facts

Seven officers in three vehicles acting as a narcotics task force and wearing jackets reading “BROWARD COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE DRUG TASK FORCE” saw the defendant toss a waist pouch into the back of his truck in a convenience store parking lot.  Two of the police vehicles pulled up and four officers jumped out.  One ran up to the defendant and asked aggressively, “What was that you threw in the ruck?”  The defendant answered, “That was my gun.”  The defendant was charged with carrying a concealed weapon.

Procedural Summary

The defendant moved to suppress the gun found in the pouch by arguing that the officers did not have reasonable suspicion to seize his person.  The trial court denied that motion, concluding that the officers did not need reasonable suspicious because the questioning was conducted during a voluntary, police-citizen encounter.

Appellate Court’s Ruling

The court of appeal reversed, finding that the trial court had erroneously determined that reasonable suspicion was not required.

The court held that facts presented constituted a stop and therefore required a reasonable suspicious of criminal activity as the defendant was considered to have been seized within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment.  The threatening presence of several officers as well as the officer’s authoritarian tone made it reasonable for the defendant to believe the officer’s question was a command to answer, rather than a request.

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