IN THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE SIXTH JUDICIAL CIRCUIT
†OF THE STATE OF FLORIDA IN AND FOR PINELLAS COUNTY
APPELLATE DIVISION

STATE OF FLORIDA,

††††††††††† Appellant,

vs.†††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††† ††††††††††† Appeal No. CRC 99-12427 CFANO

YEHIA RAFRAF,

††††††††††† Appellee.

_________________________________/

Opinion filed _____________________.

Appeal from Amended Order of Dismissal

Pinellas County Court

County Judge Patrick K. Caddell

Louis C. DeBari, Esq.
Assistant State Attorney
Attorney for Appellant

Mark S. Thellman, Esq.
Attorney for Appellee

ORDER AND OPINION

††††††††††† THIS MATTER is before the Court on the Stateís appeal from the trial courtís Amended Order of Dismissal granting the Defendantís Motion to Suppress based on a finding of lack of probable cause to arrest the Defendant for DUI and dismissing the case.††† After reviewing the briefs and record, this Court reverses the decision of the trial court granting the Motion to Suppress and Dismissing the case.† This Court finds that there was sufficient probable cause to arrest the Defendant for DUI, and therefore, the results of blood tests conducted after the arrest are admissible.

††††††††††† On review of a motion to suppress, the appellate court is to give deference to a trial courtís factual findings, but legal conclusions are reviewed de novo.† Phuagnong v. State, 714 So.2d 527 (Fla. 1st DCA 1998).† In this de novo review, this Court defers to the factual findings of the trial judge, but this Court will consider whether as a matter of law those facts amounted to probable cause.

The arresting officer, Eric Tinsley, testified that he has been a police officer for seven years employed by the Tarpon Springs Police Department, is both academy and road trained in DUI enforcement, is a certified intoxylizer operator, and has made over 250 DUI arrests.† After referring to his arrest report, officer Tinsley testified that he initially stopped the Defendant for operating his vehicle with a non-functioning headlight.† The Florida Uniform Traffic citation issued by officer Tinsley indicates that the stop occurred on August 17, 1998, at approximately 12:52 a.m. The legality of the initial stop was not an issue and the Defendant does not object to the stop.

Upon stopping the vehicle, officer Tinsley noticed a strong odor of alcoholic beverages coming from the inside of the Defendantís car.† The officer asked the Defendant to exit his vehicle to determine whether the odor was coming from the vehicle only or from the Defendant.† Upon the Defendantís exit from the vehicle, the officer determined that the strong odor of alcoholic beverage was coming from the Defendant.† In addition, the officer observed that the Defendant had a flushed face, bloodshot, glassy eyes, and mumbled speech.† The Defendant also admitted drinking alcoholic beverages prior to being stopped.

Based upon these observations, the officer placed the Defendant under arrest and transported him to the breath-testing center to perform field sobriety tests.† Officer Tinsley had the Defendant perform these tests at the breath testing center and not at the place of arrest due to inclement weather.† Based upon the Defendantís performance on the field sobriety tasks, the Defendant was asked to submit to a standardized breath test.† The Defendant agreed to take the test the results of which were .090 and .093.

The trial court granted the Defendantís Motion to Suppress the breath test results and dismissed the case based upon the lack of probable cause to arrest the Defendant.

Probable cause sufficient to justify an arrest exists where the facts and circumstances, as analyzed from the officerís knowledge, special training and practical experience, and of which he has reasonably trustworthy information, are sufficient in themselves for a reasonable man to reach the conclusion that an offense has been committed.† Department of Highway Safety v. Favino, 667 So.2d 305, 309 (Fla. 1st DCA 1995). Facts constituting probable cause need not meet the standards of conclusiveness and probability required of the circumstantial facts upon which conviction must be based.† State v. Riehl, 504 So.2d 798 (Fla. 2nd DCA 1987).† In this case, officer Tinsley was an experienced officer who made his probable cause decision based upon his observations and in light of his extensive training and experience.† Officer Tinsley also testified that it is his practice to consider all the clues available in making his determination.† The clues available to officer Tinsley consisted of a strong odor of alcohol coming from the Defendant, the Defendantís admission of having consumed alcoholic beverages prior to being stopped, the Defendantís mumbled speech, flushed face and glassy, bloodshot eyes.

This Court finds that based on the clues provided to the officer it was reasonable to conclude that there was sufficient probable cause to arrest the Defendant for DUI, particularly where an officer with his experience and training observed those clues.† Officer Tinsley was in the best position to make this decision and the information he used in making his determination was clearly visible, practical and reliable.† The trial court clearly erred in finding a lack of probable cause to arrest the Defendant based upon those clues as a matter of law. It is therefore

ORDERED AND ADJUDGED that the Order granting the Motion to Suppress and dismissing this case is reversed.† This cause is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

††††††††††† DONE AND ORDERED in Chambers at St. Petersburg, Pinellas County, Florida this 2nd day of August, 2000.

 

__________________________
CHARLES W. COPE
Circuit Judge
Primary Appellate Judge


___________________________
NANCY MOATE LEY
Circuit Judge


___________________________
R. TIMOTHY PETERS
Circuit Judge

 

Copies furnished to:

The Honorable Patrick K. Caddell

Louis C. DeBari, Esq.
Assistant State Attorney
P.O. Box 5028
Clearwater, Florida 33758

Mark S. Thellman, Esq.
Latour & Associates, P.A.
135 East Lemon Street
Tarpon Springs, Florida 34689