In a July 2012 blog post, we wrote about Mackey v. State, a decision by Florida’s Third District Court of Appeals in which the court held that a police officer driving through an area of Miami known for drugs and guns properly approached and patted down a man after seeing what the officer believed to be a gun protruding from his front pant pocket. More than a year later, the case made its way up to the state Supreme Court. The high court also said the search was legal, but clarified the standard for reviewing a “stop and frisk.”
Mr. Mackey was convicted based on charges of carrying a concealed firearm and possessing a firearm as a convicted felon. His arrest occurred in Miami after a police officer driving in a marked patrol car discovered him standing adjacent to a fence outside of an apartment building. The officer later said that he observed an object poking out from Mackey’s side pocket. After driving closer, the officer said that he saw a section of the handle protruding out, enough for him to identify it as a firearm, the officer later recalled.
The officer got out of his car, approached Mackey and asked him if he was carrying a weapon. Mackey said “no.” The officer then patted Mackey down and felt a firearm in his pocket. Mackey was arrested for possession of a concealed firearm after admitting that he didn’t have the requisite permit for the gun. The second charge was later added when prosecutors found out that Mackey had previously been convicted of a felony.
Affirming a lower court’s decision, the Third District said the officer properly conducted an investigatory stop when he approached Mackey on the street and that the subsequent pat down was lawful because the officer had probable cause to believe Mackey was carrying a gun illegally, based on his training and experience.
The Supreme Court also affirmed the decision, but said that the officer didn’t need probable cause to conduct the stop and pat down. Instead, according to the court, the officer needed only “reasonable suspicion” to believe that Mackey was violating a law at the time. “[T]he police may “make a forcible stop of a person when the officer has reasonable, articulable suspicion that the person has been, is, or is about to be engaged in criminal activity,” the Court explained, quoting the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1983 decision in U.S. v. Place.
Here, the Court said the officer easily satisfied the reasonable suspicion standard based on his observations, training and experience. “We conclude that under the totality of the circumstances, [the officeer] had a reasonable, articulable suspicion to believe that Mackey was engaged in illegal activity,” the Court explained.
If you are facing a gun possession charge in Florida, it is vital that you seek the advice of a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney who can aggressively defend your rights and interests. The South Florida criminal defense attorneys at Anidjar & Levine have decades of experience handling gun possession cases and will work tirelessly to get your charges dismissed or reduced.
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