Tallahassee, FL – In a case that helped spark passage of a state law on animal abuse, an appeals court Friday ruled that evidence should not be blocked in the prosecution of a Ponce Inlet man accused of killing a 9-month-old Labrador retriever.
A three-judge panel of the 5th District Court of Appeal overturned a circuit judge’s ruling that evidence gathered by police officers at the home of defendant Travis Archer should be suppressed because officers did not obtain a warrant.
Archer was arrested in April 2017 after police received a call about possible animal abuse at his Volusia County home. After first going to the front door of the home and then following Archer to a rear yard, an officer saw a dead dog, the appeals-court ruling said. Archer was placed in a patrol car, and officers re-entered his home and yard and took pictures of the crime scene and secured the dog’s body.
A circuit judge ruled that officers were not justified in searching the home and yard without a warrant after determining the dog was dead. The judge found that the “exigency” of the situation was over, the appeals court said. The judge suppressed evidence including photographs, police bodycam footage and the dog’s remains. But the three-judge panel overruled that decision.
“The officers’ re-entry into Archer’s house was a continuation of police presence for the limited purpose of photographing the incriminating evidence already found in plain view while the exigency was still ongoing, and seizing the deceased animal,” said the 10-page ruling, written by appeals-court Judge John Harris and joined by judges Kerry Evander and James Edwards. “The officers did not search an area other than where the incriminating evidence was in plain view during the exigent circumstances.”
The case helped lead during this year’s legislative session to passage of a measure — known as “Ponce’s Law” — that toughened animal-abuse laws.