DISTRICT COURT OF APPEAL OF THE STATE OF FLORIDA
July Term 2008
CHRISTOPHER DALE WILLIAMS,
STATE OF FLORIDA,
[November 12, 2008]
Christopher Williams pleaded no contest to three crimes and reserved
his right to appeal the denial of a motion to suppress evidence. Because
the handcuffing of Williams during a temporary detention amounted to
an unlawful seizure, we reverse two of the convictions. We affirm the
drug paraphernalia conviction, finding that the evidence was uncovered
in a vehicle search to which Williams consented.
Deputy Shane Snyder of the Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Office
stopped a car for speeding. Once the vehicle was stopped, the deputy
confronted the driver and appellant, who was in the passenger seat.
Both men appeared nervous and had red, bloodshot eyes. Appellant
would not make eye contact with the deputy. The driver told the deputy
that they had been at a friend’s house all night. Deputy Snyder learned
that the driver was driving with a suspended license and after a brief
struggle, the deputy arrested the driver and placed him in the patrol car.
From dispatch, Deputy Snyder learned that appellant, the owner of
the stopped car, had a valid driver license. The deputy had appellant
step to the front of the car. In response to the deputy’s questions,
appellant said he had no illegal narcotics, large amounts of cash, or
weapons in the car. He further consented to a search of the vehicle.
Before searching the vehicle, the deputy conducted a pat-down of
appellant because of his “nervousness.” The pat-down uncovered a
wallet in appellant’s rear pants pocket and a hard lump on appellant’s
ankle, which turned out to be a large amount of cash.
Next, the deputy told appellant, “[y]ou are being detained at this
point; y o u are not under arrest,” and proceeded to place him in
handcuffs. Later, while still handcuffed, appellant tossed something into
a ditch. The thrown object contained marijuana. A more thorough patdown later revealed a vial containing methamphetamine in appellant’s
crotch area. After the pat-down, the deputy found drug paraphernalia in
At issue is whether the handcuffing of appellant constituted an illegal
detention, which preceded th e discovery of the marijuana and
In Reynolds v. State, 592 So. 2d 1082, 1084 (Fla. 1992), the Florida
Supreme Court approved the use of handcuffs as part of a temporary
detention “where it was reasonably necessary to protect the officers’
safety or to thwart a suspect’s attempt to flee.” The court observed that
the use of handcuffs during an investigative stop was permissible when it
was “a reasonable response to the demands of the situation” and lasted
“no longer than necessary to effectuate the purpose of the stop.” Id. at
1085. The Supreme Court defined the limits of the use of handcuffs
during a temporary detention:
The methods employed must be the least intrusive means
reasonably available to verify or dispel in a short period of
time the officers’ suspicions that the suspect may be armed
and dangerous. Absent other threatening circumstances,
once the pat-down reveals the absence of weapons the
handcuffs should be removed.
Id. (citation omitted).
Reynolds and its progeny have identified some of the factors that bear
on the use of handcuffs during a temporary detention: (1) reasonable
suspicion of a crime typically involving weapons, see Studemire v. State,
955 So. 2d 1256 (Fla. 4th DCA 2007) (officers investigating a situation
where guns had recently been fired); (2) the location of the arrest in a
high crime area or in a “neighborhood known for a high incidence of
cocaine trafficking and use,” Reynolds, 592 So. 2d at 1085; (3) a night
time arrest, id.; (4) whether the handcuffing lasted too long because the
police failed to “diligently” confirm or dispel their suspicion that the
suspect might be armed and dangerous, see Melendez v. Sheriff of Palm
Beach County, 743 So. 2d 1145, 1149 (Fla. 4th DCA 1999); (5) continued
use of handcuffs even after a pat-down uncovered no weapons, see Cocke
v. State, 889 So. 2d 132, 133-34 (Fla. 4th DCA 2004).
Here, the stop was for speeding, a traffic infraction not typically
associated with firearms. Before the deputy handcuffed appellant, the
driver of the car was already in custody in the police car, so he posed no
threat. The deputy’s pat-down, which uncovered no weapons, preceded
the use of handcuffs; the deputy resorted to the restraints even where
the fear that appellant was armed should have been dispelled. See
Cocke, 889 So. 2d at 134. The discovery of a wallet and cash during the
pat-down did not elevate the stop to something more sinister than an
investigation of a traffic incident. This case differs from Sanchez v. State,
712 So. 2d 1152 (Fla. 5th DCA 1998), where the defendant’s failure to
immediately stop his car, combined with other factors, justified the belief
that the defendant “might have been armed and dangerous.” Unlike
Sanchez, this is not a case where the circumstances justified the use of
handcuffs during the temporary detention. The handcuffing of appellant
constituted a seizure in violation of the Fourth Amendment.
This case is more analogous to Baggett v. State, 849 So. 2d 1154,
1157 (Fla. 2d DCA 2003), where the second district reversed the denial of
the defendant’s motion to suppress evidence. Th e court held that,
assuming the initial detention was proper, it evolved into a de facto
arrest without probable cause when the officer handcuffed the defendant
and gave him his Miranda warnings. The officer expressed no concerns
for his safety to support the handcuffing, no pat-down of the defendant
was conducted to determine if he was armed, a n d there were no
threatening circumstances to justify keeping him in handcuffs
throughout the detention.
Appellant’s attempted disposal of the marijuana and the discovery of
the methamphetamine followed the illegal seizure, so they must be
suppressed as the fruits of the poisonous tree. E.g., Rachel v. Florida,
987 So. 2d 1281, 1283 (Fla. 4th DCA 2008) (citing Wong Sun v. United
States, 371 U.S. 471 (1963)). As the trial court found, appellant
consented to the search of his car before the unlawful seizure occurred;
we therefore affirm the denial of the motion to suppress the drug
paraphernalia found in the vehicle.
We reverse appellant’s convictions for possessing cannabis and
methamphetamine and affirm the conviction for possession of drug
SHAHOOD, C.J., and FARMER, J., concur.
Appeal from the Circuit Court for the Nineteenth Judicial Circuit,
Okeechobee County; Sherwood Bauer, Jr., Judge; L.T. Case No.
Carey Haughwout, Public Defender, and John Pauly, Jr., Assistant
Public Defender, West Palm Beach, for appellant.
Bill McCollum, Attorney General, Tallahassee, and Joseph A. Tringali,
Assistant Attorney General, West Palm Beach, for appellee.
Not final until disposition of timely filed motion for rehearing.