Miami police were captured on camera illegally seizing almost $20,000 in tips, drugs, and guns during a traffic stop that they bragged about to local media.
20-year-old Lizmixell Batista and her 33-year-old husband Ras Cates were pulled over on May 25 for cutting off a patrol car. The officers then searched the vehicle without the couple’s permission.
In the compartment, they found $19,934 that Batista earned in tips, six guns, several bottles of codeine cough syrup and suspected marijuana oil.
According to Miami Herald, the couple were charged with multiple felonies. But these charges, including armed drug dealing, were quickly thrown out as the evidence was obtained unlawfully.
The whole incident was captured by one of the officer’s bodycam, which eventually caused prosecutors to dismiss the case. The court also ordered the police department to return the cash and pay the couple’s $3,000 legal bill.
“It’s amazing how something as simple as a traffic stop can lead to crack a lot of cases,” a police officer told CBS4. “A lot of serial killers are behind bars because of traffic stops.”
Jude Faccidomo, the defense attorney for Batista and Cates, said: “What is most disturbing is that immediately following the arrest, the department went on TV and engaged in incendiary speculation without knowing the facts or even acknowledging the rampant violations of my clients’ constitutional rights.”
The prosecutors also agreed with the defense. “Search of the trunk was illegal,” prosecutor Johnathan Nobile explained why they didn’t press any charges.
In the footage, an officer can be seen ordering Cates to open the trunk, and they found a lot of possible illegal items.
Cates told them that he had a valid concealed-weapons permit and he legally owned the six guns. Authorities have confirmed this.
The couple didn’t admit to owning the drug, and it is also unclear if the codeine syrup, which wasn’t tested, was obtained with a prescription or illegally.
Almost $20,000 was also discovered in Batista’s purse. She told the officers that she was supposed to visit the bank to deposit the money she earned at her cash-only job.
Haley Health, a fellow stripper, testified at a hearing, saying that Batista earned big tips at the Cheetah club.
Since there was no possible cause for seizing the money, Judge Rodney Smith ordered that the almost $20,000 be returned to Batista.
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