TAMPA, FL (WFLA) -
The Tampa Police Department is defending their search of a man's truck in Ybor City during a rap concert.
Matthew Heller discovered his truck had been gone through after the concert and initially was going to call the police. He then noticed a small note saying a Tampa Police K-9 had alerted on his truck because of a strong marijuana scent.
Andrea Davis, a representative from the department issued this statement: "This was a legal search, but isn't typical. The K-9 went around several vehicles and Mr. Heller's vehicle was the only one the dog alerted to. Once the officers entered the truck through an open window, they weren't able to do through search because of all of the after market work done on the car and they didn't want to cause any damage. The electronic equipment was in the locked truck bed that the officers saw through a piece of glass. They didn't search that area because it was locked and they didn't want to damage the truck or the equipment.
Although a note was left by the supervisor asking him to call, we didn't learn of the owner's concern until weeks after February incident. In addition, the first we heard of any 'damage' was from a reporter last week.
This appears to be more about publicity than legal action."
Heller's attorney, Dominic Fariello disagrees.
He believes while the search may have technically been legal, it wasn't right.
"They made a bad call, they really did. Because nothing was found in my client's vehicle," said Fariello, who hosts his own radio program on 102.5 The Bone, called 'Ask the Dom.'
He says his client's case demonstrates a gray area in the law. He says Heller's truck is elevated, and was parked in a lot with many other cars. And there were thousands of people at that concert. Many of whom, he believes likely possessed marijuana.
"But the way Florida law is, the policies and procedures the police employ, I don't think technically they broke the law, but if you add the facts in like I've described, now I think you're in the gray area, are we infringing on the fourth amendment," he said.
Heller says he was surprised his truck was searched, and immediately went on line to find out if it was legal.
"I went to the internet right away, and started reading and it looks like it's constitutional, in theory," said Heller. "But I had no clue that this is something that could happen. You think of anyone that's going to break into your vehicle in Ybor, the last person you're going to think is the cops."
Fariello plans to ask the Tampa Police Department to pay for the repairs to his client's truck.