By Francisco Alvarado
By Trevor Bach
By Chris Joseph
By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By Keegan Hamilton and Francisco Alvarado
By Jake Rossen
By Allie Conti
In what might be construed as a victory for defiant kids everywhere, Florida's Fourth District Court of Appeal has ruled in favor of a teenaged girl who refused to give her name to a cop after he arrived to bust up a gathering of kids with red, glossy eyes and slurred speech. One kid — not the girl — was holding an empty bottle of Bacardi.
According to an opinion released last week, the girl, identified only by her initials, G.T., was arrested for resisting an officer without violence and disorderly intoxication in a public place.
But just because one teenager in the group had a bottle of rum doesn't necessarily mean the girl herself had done anything wrong, the court ruled. The cop's "inchoate hunch" was not enough to justify her detention.
Court documents explain that the cops had gotten a call about a "disturbance of juveniles drinking and smoking" at an apartment complex. The responding officer found six teenagers behind a building. One — not G.T. — was holding an empty bottle marked "Bacardi Silver." The kids tried to disperse, but the cop said, "Stop. Hollywood Police." They stopped. He asked for their names, dates of birth, and parents' phone numbers. The cop observed that they "had red, glossy eyes and slurred speech, which indicated to him that they were intoxicated."
G.T. was the only one who did not comply; she said, "I have the right to remain silent" and "[my] brother is in the Air Force, and [I know my] rights." That's when the cop arrested her.
She went to trial and was found guilty, but on appeal, the Fourth DCA ruled that the cop "lacked a particularized and objective basis for suspecting that G.T. herself was engaged in criminal activity. The State was unable to articulate specific facts to connect G.T. to the empty liquor bottle or to demonstrate that the officer had more than an inchoate hunch that this group of juveniles was the one he had been dispatched to investigate."
Thus, he did not have "reasonable suspicion" and was not "engaged in the lawful execution of a legal duty."
To support this opinion, the court referred to a 2010 case, O.B. v. State, in which a kid was busted for pot possession because the cop smelled it around him. "Standing with a group of individuals surrounded by the odor of burned marijuana was [insufficient] to supply more than a mere suspicion" that the appellant possessed marijuana, the court ruled in that case.
As for the glossy eyes and all, the court opinion explained: "The State argues that the juveniles' red, glossy eyes and slurred speech indicated to the officer that they were intoxicated. The officer made this observation, however, after he detained them. Therefore, that observation cannot form any part of the basis for the officer's reasonable suspicion justifying the detention."
Public defender Nan Ellen Foley could not be reached for comment late Thursday.