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Drugs Within Your Reach, Not Enough to Convict

cocaine lines.jpgWhat ever happened to the days of actual police work, actual investigations? At times, it seems as though we can only see such investigations on tv, or in Sherlock Holmes reruns. Fortunately, our Florida court system still enforces the law, so some investigation is still required at some level. Such was the case in Sundin v. State, 27 So.3d 675 (Fla. 2d DCA 2009).

Sundin was observed going in and out of a motel room to smoke cigarettes on the balcony. There was an active warrant for Sundin, so police entered the room to serve the warrant and found Sundin lying on the bed. A glass pipe used to smoke crack cocaine, and cocaine, was on the nightstand within arms reach of Sundin, but there were others in the motel room. Sundin was convicted of possession of drug paraphernalia and possession of cocaine.

The court overturned Sundin’s conviction, holding that “the State established that the pipe was within Sundin’s ready reach but failed to establish that Sundin had control over the pipe or room 221. The State presented no evidence linking Sundin to the pipe other than his mere proximity to it. Additionally, the State did not present sufficient evidence of Sundin’s control of the premises to support an inference of control over the contraband. While Detective Kmiec saw Sundin enter and exit room 221 on a few occasions, Detective Kmiec did not see Sundin use a key to enter the hotel room or otherwise ascertain that Sundin had rented the room.”

Remember what I keep talking about, good ‘ol fashioned detective work? Where is it? I can’t tell you how many times, here in Orlando, that we criminal defense attorneys run across such sloppy police work. Investigations that, essentially, amount to no investigation whatsoever, other than to write in the police report “drugs found near defendant”. So what? That’s all you got? Mere proximity is not enough to prove possession.