Man Claims Police Broke Into His Vehicle Because They Thought They Smelled Pot
TAMPA, Fla. (CBS Tampa) — A business owner says Tampa police broke into his vehicle and damaged it because they thought they smelled marijuana emanating from the truck.
Matthew Heller, who owns Horn Blasters, tells WFLA-TV that police left a note on his truck that he uses to promote his business after he left a concert in February.
“Sir, your car was checked by TPD K-9. The vehicle was searched for marijuana due to a strong odor coming from the passenger side of the vehicle. Any questions, call Cpl. Fanning,” the note obtained by WFLA read.
Police never found marijuana in the car.
“It was all sealed up, a parked vehicle in a private parking lot for a hip-hop concert in Ybor. There were all kinds of smells, everywhere around here,” Heller told WFLA.
Heller says he’s “disgusted” by their actions because of the damage they allegedly caused to his truck.
“I’ve got my whole life savings in this truck. It’s like a marketing tool for my business to promote the air horns and everything. The horns weren’t working, all the electronics were ripped out,” Heller told WFLA.
Heller stated that he has reached out to the department for documentation about the search, but he and his attorney have yet to hear back.
“I am out for the damages and my time but mostly I’m scratching my head and kind of confused with everything. I had no clue this was something that could happen.”
Heller’s attorney, Bryant Camareno, called the search illegal.
“It’s an illegal search,” Camareno told WFLA. “Usually if it’s some kind of unoccupied vehicle there has to be some level of exigent circumstance to justify searching a vehicle without a search warrant. Exigent could mean if there is a dead body inside, if there is a screaming child locked in the car, a dog but if the car is unoccupied there is no exigency to justify the search.”
The Tampa Police Department said that the search was legal, but not typical. They are currently reviewing the incident.