Miami-Dade PD Must Repay $20,000 to Stripper for Seizing Cash in a Traffic Stop
Miami Dade police illegally seized $20,000 from a stripper and her husband, but now a judge has ordered the police department to return the cash along with over $3,000 in the defendant's legal fees.
Lizmixell Batista, 20, and her husband Ras Cates, 33, were stopped by Miami police in May 2018. Batista is an exotic dancer at Cheetah Gentleman's Club in Hallandale Beach. Batista had $19,934 in cash in the trunk of her vehicle that cops ended up seizing.
WFTV reports that on May 25 the couple cut off a Miami Dade police cruiser in traffic, they were pulled over for the traffic infraction.
It was then that a cop told Cates to open the trunk of his car. Cates opened the trunk and in it cops found six guns, including three assault-style rifles.
Lawyers for Cates say the search was an illegal search, because the officer never expressively got permission from Cates to search the trunk. Cates told cops that he legally owned the weapons and had all valid permits.
After cops seized the guns, they proceeded to search the rest of the suspect vehicle illegally and found marijuana oil, bottles of codeine cough syrup with no valid prescription and approximately $19,934 cash.
When asked about the cash, a handcuffed Batista told officers that she was a stripper at Cheetah's Gentleman's Club.
The cash and drug paraphernalia were also seized by police. Batista and Cates were then arrested and charged with armed drug dealing and other felony charges.
The couple's defense attorney, Jude Faccidomo said: "Miami police engaged in incendiary speculation without knowing the facts or even acknowledging the rampant violations of my clients’ constitutional rights.”
The Miami-Dade Police Department’s legal bureau seized the nearly $20,000 citing it as drug money, police even asked a civil court judge to allow the department to keep the cash.
But in civil court, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Rodney Smith rejected that request and instead ordered that the cash be returned to Batista and Cates because there was no probable cause for the seizure. Judge Smith also ordered for the Miami Dade Police Department to pay more than $3,000 in legal fees to the defendants.
Even Prosecutor Johnathan Nobile wrote in court documents that:
"Cops never got Cates’ permission to search his vehicle’s trunk but instead commanded defendant to pop the trunk. Search of the trunk was illegal."
The defense is still trying to get the guns back from the police department. There is no word if the drug and weapons charges will be dismissed.