A Florida woman who took a smudge stick of sage on a bird-watching trip has sued the Broward County sheriff’s office, after police thought her dried herb was marijuana and arrested her.
Sheriff's Deputy Dominic Raimondi, 51, mistook Brown's sage for marijuana, then searched her car and found more. His field kit said the sage — purchased at an airport gift shop in Albuquerque, N.M. — tested positive for marijuana.
He did not arrest her that day in March 2009, but sent the 50 grams of "contraband" to the crime lab for a more definitive test.
Three months later, Raimondi showed up at the Massage Envy in Weston where Brown works and took her away in handcuffs.
"They arrested me in front of my customers, my boss, my co-workers," Brown said. She later was subjected to a body cavity search, a strip search and an overnight stay in jail.
A month later, Brown's attorney discovered that the sage had never been tested at the Broward Sheriff's Office crime lab.
"When I found out they didn't do a lab test, I was outraged," said her Miami attorney, Bill Ullman. "I raised hell about that."
On July 23, 2009, Ullman demanded that the sage be tested.
The lab test concluded that the dried sage was not marijuana at all.
Brown filed a civil lawsuit claiming public humiliation, mental pain and suffering. The suit accuses the Broward State Attorney's Office of negligence and malicious prosecution.
Circuit Judge John Bowman dismissed the case in January, saying prosecutors are given immunity from lawsuits in the course of doing their jobs.
Brown is appealing to the 4th District Court of Appeal in hopes she will be granted the right to a jury trial.
She is basing her appeal on the fact that the Sheriff swore the sage tested positive for marijuana when if fact the lab test was never done.
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