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Shoplifting Defendant Claims Illegal Search


The appellant in this case is Gladys Carol Hutchinson. The appellee of the case is the state of Florida. The case is being heard in the second district, District Court of Appeal in the state of Florida.


A New York Criminal Lawyer said the defendant is appealing is a plea of nolo contendere for drug charges that she reserved the right to review through this court and was denied the right to suppress the charges.

Case Background

The case begins when the defendant, Gladys Carol Hutchinson, was shopping in a store using a shopping cart and was noticed by Jerry Geisler, the assistant manager of the supermarket. Geisler states that the defendant aroused his suspicions because she had a large purse lying in her cart. The purse is described by Geisler as being approximately two feet across and about six to eight inches wide. He states that it looked like a carryon bag used on airlines. After observing the defendant he was convinced that she was shoplifting (petit larceny) and called the police.

The police arrived before Hutchinson had left the store. The police officer, Jerbie Bryan, instructed Geisler to go into the store and follow Hutchinson when she left. Bryan waited outside in the parking lot. Hutchinson left the store with her cart and the items that she had purchased. She was followed by Geisler and Bryan pulled his patrol car up next to Hutchinson’s vehicle. Geisler told the officer that Hutchinson was removing items from the purse and hiding them under the seat of her vehicle.

Office Bryan testified that he walked up to the vehicle and told Hutchinson that she was being accused of shoplifting. A Brooklyn Criminal Lawyer said Hutchinson denied stealing anything. I asked to look in her bag and Hutchinson began taking things out of it. Bryan states that there were several small zip up bags and cloth bags inside the larger bag and Hutchinson opened some of the bags and refused to open some of the others. While this was going on Sergeant Robert Walker arrived on the scene.

When the process was completed, Office Bryan told Hutchinson to open all of the small bags. Bryan stated that Hutchinson opened a small bag and then immediately zipped it back up. His focus was then on this particular bag. He then asked to see the bag and she handed it to him. Inside was a container that held a white substance. He remembered seeing another jar with a similar substance in another bag.

The motion to suppress this evidence is made by the defendant as she stated the findings were based on an unreasonable search of her belongings. The state argues that the search is valid because Hutchinson agreed to it.

Case Conclusion

While the defendant seemed willing to allow a search of her belongings when being accused of shoplifting, it is also noted that she was reluctant to allow the small zipped up bags in her bag to be opened. Both officers admit that their suspicions were aroused because of the reluctance of the defendant to open one of the small zipped up bags.

For this reason, we find that the evidence found in the case should be suppressed as the search was not condoned by the defendant. We rule in favor of the appeal and reverse the previous decision that was made by the district court.

The law offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates can help you through any type of legal situation, whether you have been charged with shoplifting, sex crimes or a drug charge. We have offices in the greater metropolitan area of Manhattan, making it easy to set up an appointment near where you live. You can call our office to set up a time to meet for your free consultation at any time.

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