When Can Florida Cops Search Your House? Williams v. State

In Williams v. State, Florida’s Second District Court of Appeals explains some of the basic requirements that police must satisfy in order to get a warrant to search the home of a person suspected of selling drugs.

Ms. Williams was charged with drug possession after police in Tampa received a tip from a confidential informant about a 30-35-year-old woman selling crack cocaine from her apartment. The informant later identified Williams as the woman and pointed out her home as the place where she was allegedly selling crack. The officers maintained visual and audio contact with the informant during a “controlled buy” in which he purchased a small amount of the drug from Williams. He also confirmed that a car parked out front was registered to Williams.

The officers and informant executed another controlled buy the following day, after which the informant said Williams may have drugs and a gun in her car. The officers later searched the vehicle after stopping Williams for a traffic violation, but didn’t find narcotics or a weapon. The cops ultimately obtained a warrant to search Williams home from a magistrate. They didn’t mention the traffic stop or incorrect tip in seeking the warrant. A search of Williams’ home recovered crack cocaine and marijuana, as well as three razor blades with cocaine residue, two digital weight scales and a handgun.

A trial court denied Williams’ motion to suppress the evidence. She later plead no contest and was convicted on the drug possession charges.

Affirming the trial court’s decision on appeal, the Second District said the magistrate properly issued the warrant based on the controlled buy and other evidence. In order to obtain a search warrant in Florida, the Court explained that the police must provide an affidavit showing two things: “first, that a particular person has committed a crime…and second, that evidence relevant to the probable criminality is likely located at the place to be searched.” The judge reviewing an affidavit is expected the make a “common sense” decision based on all of the circumstances described in the affidavit.

Here, the Court said the cops laid out sufficient circumstances to indicate that William was likely selling drugs and that contraband was likely to be found at her house. Specifically, they detailed the two controlled buys that happened within the home’s curtilage. In addition, the informant knew Williams for roughly six months and said he had made a number of previous drug purchases from her before the controlled buys.

The Court also rejected Williams’ argument that the warrant was “stale” because it was issued 28 days after the second controlled buy. “Generally, we adhere to a thirty-day rule of thumb between the events described in the affidavit and issuance of the warrant,” the Court explained. “Under that standard, Ms. Williams’ argument fails.”

Search and seizure issues like this often come up in Florida criminal cases, including those involving drugs. If you are facing a drug charge in Florida, it’s vital that you seek the advice of a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney who can aggressively defend your rights and interests. The South Florida drug possession defense attorneys at Anidjar & Levine have decades of experience handling these and other cases and will work tirelessly to get your charges dismissed or reduced.

Related blog posts:

When Is It Legal For Police To Stop You On The Street? – Mackey v. State

Evidence Falls Short in Florida Drug Conveyance Case – Delgado-George v. State

Florida Court Says Man Who Came Out of House Not Responsible for Marijuana in It – Evans v. State