Gloating officer with a bag of marijuana looks like he might enjoy using the smell of pot to gain entry to a home or vehicle with a search warrant in Tampa Bay, Florida.

Pinellas Circuit Judge Andrews recently found that a nosey police officer’s testimony was too incredible to be believed when the officer said he could smell marijuana in a vehicle he wanted to search for drugs. As often happens in Florida although the vehicle did have cocaine when searched without a warrant no marijuana was found. Officers in Florida are taught to use the smell of marijuana as a pretext to search vehicles without taking the time, paperwork or probable cause for a proper search warrant.

In his written opinion the judge noted that “… it stretches the limits of credulity for this court to believe that the search of the defendant’s vehicle was based upon the odor of marijuana.” What then, one wonders, was the search based on and why did officers choose that particular vehicle to stop?

Of the many St. Petersburg Police officers at the scene of the pulled over SUV only one testified that he could smell marijuana albeit mixed with vanilla air freshener to justify the search. Clearly when other officers could not readily obtain a search warrant, this officer decided that breaking the law justified an unlawful search. And let’s not mince words – the officer did break the law. First, the police officer committed at least a trespass and possibly an armed burglary of the vehicle since he had neither a search warrant nor permission to enter the vehicle. Second, the officer while testifying that he smelled marijuana may have committed the crime of perjury if he knowingly lied under oath during the Motion to Suppress evidence.

This manufacturing of evidence has been a recurring problem with Tampa Bay police officers. The only way for it to end is not only for heroic judges to throw out cases based on lies, but for the police departments to punish those who do it. 

I had a case in the Middle District Court in Tampa in which the initial stop was based on the very strong smell of marijuana. Yet when the trunk was opened without a search warrant there was no marijuana at all only a large quantity of methamphetamine. Despite suggestions from the government agents that marijuana must recently have been in the drunk, but offloaded just before the stop, the more reasonable likelihood is that the agents simply were not being honest.

Each defense lawyer in Pinellas County, Florida should be on the look out for any cases involving this officer. All of his pending cases should be reexamined by the state attorney’s office to determine if the factual basis for criminal charges is corrupt. Further, every plea and every conviction involving his work should be investigated. If it is found after an investigation that the officer knowingly lied to the Judge or entered the vehicle inappropriately then St. Petersburg Police Department should not only fire the officer, but arrest him for perjury, trespass or armed burglary. 


The Largo Police Department grudgingly apologized for breaking into a home that officers falsely believed was occupied by vagrants. The officers busted down the front door and confronted the law abiding occupants with weapons to investigate the heinous crime of a possible trespassing charge. 

Tampa Bay officers breaking down doors without search warrants could lead to someone being shot or killed, so officers should always obtain a warrant unless exigent circumstances apply.
Damn, forgot the Search Warrant again!

It’s very lucky for everyone involved that on one was shot, because  the manner in which the officers gained entry was closer to a home invasion than to what one would expect from qualified police officers. Under Florida’s stand your ground law those within the house would clearly have a right to defend themselves from what they believed to be a home invasion. If there had been a shooting, how would the police have explained their obvious disregard of the law and sheer laziness in not first securing a search warrant on the house? 

Also, since anyone in Florida can resist an unlawful arrest in Florida as long as no force or violence is used, there would be incentive on the part of the police officers to find a reason or excuse to be there by looking for any unlawful acts. That’s why properly prepared search warrants actually help the police by solidifying the reason they need to go into a home and delineating before a judge or magistrate the evidence of unlawful misconduct the police possess.

Despite an apology to the men living in the home, the Police Department made it clear that it believed it did not really need a search warrant under the circumstances because of the exigent circumstances exception for search warrants. The fact is that investigation of a possible trespass with no other information nor suspicion of wrong doing nor immediate necessity for officer or citizen safety is legally insufficient. If the the leaders of the Largo Police Department don’t understand criminal law, how can the investigating officers be expected to carry out their obligations under the law?

But the police do know what the law entails, they just don’t want the aggravation that comes with respecting search warrant requirements. The truth is that in Tampa Bay, Florida many police departments have made a mockery of the fourth amendment search warrant requirements by using inappropriate tactics such as secret videos, while other officers have committed crimes without being prosecuted. If the police officers knew they should have obtained a search warrant then they were committing at least a trespass and possibly a burglary.

The Largo Police Department routinely and habitually violates the rights of it’s citizens. Those in a leadership position should be punished or new leaders found who will obey our constitution even if they don’t believe in it. 


A Florida Judge may want to look into becoming a faith healer should he ever tier of listening to Clearwater Criminal Defense Attorneys. Judge Hurley was conducting what are known as bond advisories, where he determines bond for recently arrested inmates via a video link into the jail. Looking at a Defendant named Carl Funk, charged with Trespass, the defendant said that he is gravely disabled, in a wheelchair and bedridden even requiring the help of two deputies to sit at the hearing before the Judge.

Here are excerpts from the Sun Sentinel describing Judge Hurley’s healing ways:

Judge helps Defendant with bond and plea deal and even helps him walk again, bonding out of jail in Clearwater, Largo, Petersburg
Masaccio, Healing with his Shadow, 1424

“I am disabled and it’s really a problem for me to move around, I really need to be in my bed and that’s where I’ll be for the rest of my life.”The judge read from the police report that stated Funk was trespassing on private property on South Ocean Drive.“It didn’t look like you were in bed at that time,” Hurley said.

Funk explained that two men carried him out of his home to a neighbor’s property, triggering the trespassing violation.”I was [dragged] out by two unknown people,” Funk said.A sympathetic Hurley set bond at $100 but Funk said he could not afford it.”Your honor, I have limited funding,” he said.So the judge offered Funk a six-month payment plan for $50 and Funk accepted it in exchange for a guilty plea.“Sir, we are defendant-friendly in this courtroom,” the judge joked. “Good luck, Funk.”And with that, Funk stood up and walked away. The courtroom erupted in laughter and the judge looked up to see Funk was gone from the video monitor. He asked a jail deputy how the disabled defendant departed so quickly; the deputy explained Funk had used a walker that could not be seen on camera. Raising both hands, Judge Hurley declared, “He’s been cured.”

If you need help (other than with healing) in Largo, St. Petersburg & Tampa Bay call a Clearwater Criminal Defense Lawyer and we’ll get your bond reduced to have you walking out of jail as soon as possible.