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Throughout history, there have been several landmark cases that have shaped the legal landscape in Florida and even the country. Let’s take a look at some of these cases.

Gideon v. Wainwright

In 1961, Clarence Gideon was arrested and charged with breaking and entering Panama City, FL, and couldn’t afford an attorney. The trial judge denied his request to have one appointed so Gideon defended himself and was convicted and sentenced to five years in prison. His appeal to the Florida Supreme Court was denied. In 1963, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Gideon had a right to a court-appointed attorney, guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment. At his new trial, with a lawyer, Gideon was found not guilty. This landmark case established that Defendants, who could not afford an attorney, have a Sixth Amendment right to counsel in criminal proceedings.

Anonymous Tip Case (Fourth Amendment violation) – Florida v. J.L.

Dade County Police received an anonymous tip describing three youths at a bus stop, one of whom allegedly carried an illegal concealed weapon. Arriving about six minutes later, police found three youths dressed as the anonymous tipster had described. Police searched the three youths and found the weapon. At the trial, the court suppressed the evidence, but the Third District Court reversed the suppression. The case was appealed to the Supreme Court of Florida. 

The Florida Supreme Court ruled that the police search was unreasonable and violated the Fourth Amendment. The State of Florida appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. In a unanimous opinion, delivered by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed with the Florida Supreme Court and held that an anonymous tip, standing alone, that a person is carrying a gun is not sufficient to justify a police officer’s stop and frisk of that person. The Court held that an anonymous tip must possess a level of reliability and credibility as to the informant’s knowledge.

The K-9 Search Case (Fourth Amendment violation) – Florida v. Jardines

Miami-Dade Police Department received an unverified “crime stoppers” tip that a home was being used to grow marijuana. Detectives, along with a trained drug detection dog, approached the front door of the home and the dog signaled that it detected the scent of narcotics. A search warrant was obtained and a search confirmed that marijuana was being grown inside the home. The homeowner moved to suppress the evidence seized at his home arguing that the drug dog’s sniff was an impermissible search under the Fourth Amendment. The trial court ruled to suppress the evidence, but the appellate court reversed the decision. The case went to the U.S. Supreme Court, which held that the front porch of a home (“the curtilage”) is part of the home itself, and a dog sniff within the curtilage, without a warrant, constitutes a search for Fourth Amendment purposes.

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