Two Florida firefighters are being charged with drug distribution after their trial was sidelined temporarily as defense lawyers tried to toss a warrant. An appeals court ruled that police can – in some cases – step outside their jurisdiction in order to get a search warrant. If the warrant had been tossed. along with it would have gone any evidence gleaned during the search. Essentially, that would have killed the prosecution’s case right there.
Lewis Stouffer and Craig Turturo are accused of running “pill mills” all across the state of Florida. They were charged in 2012. The case stalled when judge Cynthia Cox determined that the warrant should have been issued to Broward and Palm Beach County detectives but was instead issued to Indian River County detectives who uncovered the evidence needed to connect the men to an entire franchise of pill mills across the state. Hence the detective who found the evidence was acting outside of his jurisdiction.
The prosecution appealed the ruling and the case is now moving forward after being put on hold for 6 years.
The former firefighters are accused of distributing opioid-based medications such as Oxycodone, Percocet, Roxicodone, and other medications such as Xanax, Valium, and more.
Illegal Search and Seizures
Defense attorneys for the firefighters argued that the warrant should never have been issued to Detective Eric Flowers of Indian River County. Since the bulk of the search was performed in Broward and Palm Beach, the warrant should have been issued there. Nonetheless, Flowers had the reins of the case and he let local law enforcement officers perform the bulk of the search.
Indian River County Judge, Cynthia Cox, agreed with the defense’s position. The appeals court, however, overturned their decision on the basis that Flowers was investigating crimes that occurred within his jurisdiction. That the investigation led him outside his jurisdiction was of little consequence. There is no specific law that bars law enforcement from one county seeking a warrant in another county.
This, of course, raises some constitutional concerns for Florida residents. If anyone with a badge is entitled to seek warrants and search the property of any Florida citizen, that could be ripe for abuse.
On the other hand, the appellate court’s decision restricts what law enforcement officers can do outside of their jurisdiction. They cannot use information that they get from another jurisdiction, but they can issue warrants if their own investigation leads them outside of their jurisdiction. If that sounds a little tricky, then you’re not alone in pondering what it actually means.
We know that the court decided that the Indian River County warrant was valid because the investigation began in Indian River County. We also know that the fact that the warrant was issued in Indian River County nearly jeopardized the prosecution’s case and is still far from settled. There is nothing stopping an appeal to a higher court or even the Florida Supreme court.
Scott Skier Law Firm Defends Those Who are Accused of a Crime
Our West Palm Beach criminal defense attorneys at Skier Law Firm, P.A. help criminal defendants get a fair trial under the law. If you have been accused of a crime, give us a call at (561) 220-3355 or contact us online, and we can begin preparing your defense immediately.