Dwight Gordon headed west on the Alligator Array to drive weekly from his family home in Miami to his children in Sarasota.
Gordon remembered that it was sunny at noon and there was little traffic. His 1988 Cadillac Deville smelled like cherries from two red tree-shaped air fresheners hanging from the rear-view mirror.
Just before turning north towards Naples, he passed two Collier County lawmakers. He confirmed that he wasn’t speeding up. A few minutes later, the emergency light flashed behind him.
The agent asked him if he knew why he was pulled. Gordon, then 32, said he was at a loss.
It was an air freshener, the adjutant told him. He said they were blocking Gordon’s view.
For Gordon, the day of July 2, 2003 is chilling to remember, shortly after a Minnesota police officer shot and killed Dauntelite.
Wright’s mother told reporters that her 20-year-old son believed he was pulled on April 11 because of the air freshener hanging from his mirror. The police chief said Wright’s tag had expired and he had an arrest warrant.
He has been killed by police officers who say authorities have mistaken her gun for her taser and is currently facing manslaughter. The fact that such a minor breach could lead to the police killing of another black man aroused public anger.
The state has various laws prohibiting accessories and shades from obstructing the driver’s view. But it is up to the police and the courts to interpret them.
It includes Florida. But thanks to Gordon’s case, the question of whether police officers could pull someone because of air fresheners was resolved many years ago.
“I’m neither a legal scholar nor anything,” said Gordon, now 50.
“It was horrifying.”
Like Wright, Gordon is black. He grew up in the Miami area and his grandmother warned about the police. Do not run, talk or provoke.
Therefore, it was difficult for Gordon not to consider the 2003 outage as discrimination.
“It was profiling,” he said. “It was absolutely profiling.”
A spokeswoman for the Collier County Sheriff’s Office said there was no evidence that the suspension was racially motivated and authorities have a policy of opposition to profiling.
Gordon said he asked his agent if something hanging from the rear-view mirror in the middle of the windshield could block the driver’s view.
Congressmen told him to leave Cadillac, so they were able to find it. One of the lawmakers had a police dog who signaled to the trunk. According to court records, lawmakers found a box of laundry detergent, inside which was a clear plastic bag containing about 9 ounces of cocaine.
They arrested Gordon and took him to jail, where he was immediately released on bail. He soon got a lawyer, Liane McCurry, who was skeptical of the traffic stop.
“It was horrifying,” said a Sarasota lawyer recently. Tampa Bay Times.. “That’s an outright facial mistake.”
And cocaine was gathered while McCulley and Gordon felt it was an illegal traffic stop, and they believed that the entire case should be abandoned. Evidence obtained during an illegal search is unacceptable in court.
McCulley said he tried to persuade the prosecutor to withdraw the case, but the state went ahead and charged Gordon with cocaine trafficking. She filed a petition to suppress the evidence, but the circuit court denied it. During the hearing, court records indicate that one of Congressman Collier said he had pulled hundreds of drivers for similar reasons.
Gordon did not challenge the indictment and left the door open to appeal the judge’s decision on a motion to suppress evidence. Judges convicted him in March 2004 and sentenced Gordon to a minimum of seven years in prison, three years of probation, and a $ 100,000 fine, records show.
He was taken to a Gulf correctional facility in Panhandle, more than 400 miles away from the young children of Sarasota.
The word “appon”
The state fought the appeal. The proceedings were subject to two Florida laws.
1 With a few exceptions, such as paid transponders, the driver drives the car “with signs, sunscreen materials, products, or covers attached to or placed on the windshield.” Is prohibited.
The· Other Driving with signs, posters, or other opaque materials on the windshield, side wings, or side or rear windows of such a vehicle that significantly obstruct, obscure, or impair the driver’s clear view. It is prohibited to do.
A judge in the Second District Court of Appeals, who presides over appeals from Swath in Central Florida, including Tampa Bay, weighed both legislation. The agents had a “honest belief” to thwart Gordon, but judges said their analysis of whether it was legal resulted in the word “above” in each law. It was. The word “meaning direct contact” Unanimous decision..
“Therefore, driving with air fresheners or other objects hanging from the rear-view mirror of the vehicle does not violate the law,” the ruling says.
A panel of three judges overturned Gordon’s conviction and verdict on May 13, 2005. McCulley called him to tell him the news.
“It’s definitely that high-energy, thrilling, exciting type of sensation,” he said of the day. “It’s almost that horror because you’re like’Is it true?'”
it was. Gordon was released just in time for his son’s fourth birthday. He returned to Sarasota, took a shower and went straight to the party supplies store.
“The safest traffic stop is … no traffic stop”
Due to Gordon’s legal victory, Florida law enforcement officers are no longer able to use air fresheners to justify pulling someone.
But the state has a long list of traffic laws, some of which are better known than others, said Tampa’s lawyer and former Hillsborough prosecutor Joel Elsie.
Elsea pointed out the law that when making a right turn, “a right turn must be as close as possible to the curb or edge on the right side of the road.” Therefore, it may be a violation to make a straight turn towards the leftmost lane.
This is just one of the lesser-known rules in Florida’s large-scale unified traffic control law.
“More rules on books can be expected to increase interaction between law enforcement agencies and the general public,” Elsie said.
According to an analysis of 100 million traffic outages conducted by Stanford University’s Open Policing Project, these interactions involve racial disparities. Police officers stopped black drivers at a higher rate than white drivers, and researchers found that they were searching for black and Hispanic drivers more often.
Researchers also found that police needed to reduce suspicion in order to search for black and Hispanic drivers.
Although courts can resolve court disputes, traffic stagnation can be emotional and unpredictable, Elsie said.
“Tensions are rising. There is at least one armed force,” he said. “Often people on either side of a transportation stop have a strong opinion about whether they are right or wrong.
“I don’t think the safest traffic stop for everyone is a traffic stop.”
Currently, Gordon lives in Bradenton and has a heating, ventilation and air conditioning system. He said he learned a lot from his encounter with law enforcement agencies many years ago. Gordon’s mother gave birth to him at the age of 14, and he grew up struggling with drugs as an option to make extra money.
“For me, it eliminates struggle, eliminates suffering, so I did what I did, and it was a kind of thing,” he said. “But then I realized that the costs were incurred and not worth it.”
When he saw the news about Wright’s death this month, he wondered how different his experience was.
“I don’t think many of us have the opportunity to have this kind of interaction and live to explain it, not just talk about it,” he said.
Gordon still air fresheners in his rearview mirrors, but he can’t stop thinking about them.
“As soon as the smell disappears, it will fall.”