A man is suing the city of Fort Lauderdale and three police officers in a federal case after alleging he was improperly stopped in traffic, forced out of his vehicle at gunpoint, subjected to an illegal vehicle search and arrested for possession of a concealed weapon – despite having a permit.
Although we rarely hear of cases resulting in civil litigation, our Fort Lauderdale criminal traffic defense lawyers know that officer mistakes during traffic stops are commonplace.
A person who is stopped in traffic, searched and arrested has more civil rights than he or she might realize. Even in cases where the defendant may have been involved in some wrongdoing, it might not matter in the end of it can be proven that the officer didn’t act according to the law, internal police policy or was somehow found to be untrustworthy.
There are a lot of opportunities for an officer to fail to perform as he or she should, and each defendant should seek a defense firm willing to explore the case from all angles.
In this situation, the 40-year-old defendant has said that he suspects he drew the suspicion of police by driving through a bad neighborhood in an expensive vehicle. Certainly, such a thing might draw attention, but it’s not illegal and it’s certainly not enough of a reason to stop someone and arrest them.
The police report indicates that the stop was initiated on Northwest Ninth Avenue. One officer said he watched as the defendant rolled through two stop signs without coming to a complete stop. Then, the officer said that with his high beams on the vehicle, he was able to observe the defendant reaching into his waistband, pulling out a firearm and putting it inside the vehicle glove box.
However, the defendant alleges that his windows were heavily tinted, which would have made it impossible for the officer to see inside the vehicle, with or without high beams. He maintains he knew he was being followed by law enforcement, but he was quite surprised to be pulled over because he hadn’t believed himself to have done anything wrong.
After pulling over immediately, the defendant was ordered out of his vehicle at gunpoint. Officers said they searched his vehicle for weapons as a precaution for their own safety. They discovered a 9 mm handgun in the glove box. The firearm, officers said, was “able and ready” for discharge.
The defendant produced for officers a concealed carry permit. But despite having this evidence right in front of them, the officers instead relied on a records check that, for some reason, indicated that he was denied a permit at some earlier point.
They arrested him anyway on a single charge of possession of a concealed weapon. He wasn’t charged for running a stop sign. There were no other alleged illegal actions.
Still, he was held in custody for nearly 10 hours before he was finally released on bond. He had to spend even more money to fight the charges, though eventually, the state attorney’s office declined to move forward with the case after verifying that the defendant did indeed have legal permission to have that loaded gun in his vehicle.
The defendant subsequently filed a complaint with the internal affairs office of the Fort Lauderdale Police Department. The investigating sergeant noted that because they were not any other violations, the defendant was “charged with a crime he did not commit.”
Even so, the internal investigation let the officer’s off scot-free, saying the mistake was “minor,” but the detectives had acted in good faith. Still, a final outcome of the internal affairs report has been on hold, pending the outcome of the civil case.
The defendant contends that the detectives falsified the official version of events in order to conceal the fact that they had violated his civil rights – namely, his Fourth Amendment rights to be free from excessive force and unreasonable search and seizure.