In the matter of Vinci vs. State of Florida, the court of appeal issued an opinion addressing two issues, the first issue the court addressed was whether or not the police officer had probable cause to conduct a traffic stop and probable cause to arrest for possession of a narcotic drug with no a valid prescription.
Florida Statute ? 316.089(1) states the following: "Whenever any roadway has been divided into two or more clearly marked lanes for traffic, the following rules, in addition to all others consistent herewith, shall apply: (1) A vehicle shall be driven as nearly as practicable entirely within a single lane and shall not be moved from such lane until the driver has first ascertained that such movement can be made with safety."
Florida Statute ? 316.089(1) does not create a strict liability offense justifying a traffic stop. To have probable cause to make a traffic stop predicated on lane weaving, the driver’s failure to maintain a lane is required to create a safety concern or the driving pattern is required to be indicative of impairment. This typically will involve recurring lane weaving violations spanning a longer distance.
Possession of a Controlled Substance Without a Valid Prescription
In the instant case, after seeing the defendant weaving for about a mile, and believing him to be DUI, a deputy stopped him. The defendant gave him consent to search his vehicle. The officer located one tablet of alprazolam inside a pill bottle labeled Suboxone. The officer believed that the defendant had committed the crime of possession of a controlled substance, & later arrested defendant for having actual possession of oxycodone and alprazolam without a valid prescription. Counsel for the defendant filed a motion to suppress & an evidentiary hearing on defendant’s Motion to Suppress was conducted in the circuit court. The trial court granted defendant’s motion and suppressed the evidence based on the fact that the illegal nature of the alprazolam tablet was not immediately apparent, which it must be to permit seizure of items that are within plain view, as a person could legally have Xanax, as opposed to the drug cocaine. The 2nd District Court of Appeal reversed, holding that the officer did have probable cause to seize the pill ruling that possession of alprazolam inside of a container that isn’t for an alprazolam prescription provides prima facie evidence that the defendant is in unlawful possession Although a prescription remains a valid defense, but the deputy was not obligated to predict various defenses. Additionally, the lower court didn’t err in its ruling that the deputy had sufficient reasonable suspicion in order to make a traffic stop to determine whether defendant was impaired by drugs or alcohol.
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