IN THE CIRCUIT COURT FOR THE SIXTH JUDICIAL CIRCUIT
 IN AND FOR PINELLAS COUNTY, FLORIDA
APPELLATE DIVISION

ASHLEY IRWIN, a/k/a Ashley Angeli,

            Appellant,

vs.

                                                                                    Appeal No. CRC 00-11197 CFANO

STATE OF FLORIDA,

            Appellee.

_____________________________________/

Opinion filed March 22, 2001.

Appeal from Non-final Order

County Court, Criminal Division, Pinellas County

The Honorable Robert J. Morris

Joy K. Goodyear, Esquire
Assistant Public Defender
Criminal Justice Center
14250 - 49th Street North
Clearwater, FL 33762
Attorney for Appellant

Erik J. Lombillo, Esquire
Assistant State Attorney
P.O. Box 5028
Clearwater, FL 34618
Attorney for Appellee

ORDER AND OPINION

            THIS CAUSE came before the Court on the Appellant’s appeal of County Court, Criminal Division, Pinellas County, Non-final Order Denying Motion to Suppress Evidence. Upon review of the briefs and the Record on Appeal, the Court finds that the Non-final The issue is whether the deputies were justified in entering a mobile home without a search warrant.  The facts that were in evidence show that there was a fourteen-year-old girl who had run away from home, and her family had posted flyers in an effort to find her.

            A former student contacted the Resource Officer at Clearwater High School, who in turn contacted Officer William Hodgson of the Clearwater Police Department.  The former student told Officer Hodgson that he knew the location of the girl and asked Officer Hodgson to hurry because the girl was going to leave about 1:30 that day and go away with her friend and be gone forever. The student also said that he was concerned for the girl's safety as she had told him that she was doing drugs that included ecstasy and heroin.  The student stated that he had just seen the girl that morning, and she looked terrible.  The student also told Officer Hodgson that the girl was trying to kill herself.  The former student rode with Officer Hodgson to a trailer park and pointed out the mobile home where the girl was staying.  The mobile home was outside the jurisdiction of Clearwater, so Officer Hodgson called the Sheriff's Office and waited approximately fifteen minutes until the Pinellas County deputies arrived.

            Officer Hodgson had a flyer with the girl's picture. He showed the deputies the flyer and relayed the information that he had to them. Deputy Ables had also seen the flyer on the wall of the Sheriff's Office.  Deputy Ables knocked on the door of the mobile home and announced that he was from the Sheriff's Office.  Officer Hodgson, who was standing by the hinge side of the door, could smell marijuana from inside the mobile home as Deputy Ables knocked on the door.  After knocking twice and getting no response, Deputy Ables pushed the door open and looked inside.  He saw the runaway and recognized her from the flyer that he had seen.  Next, Deputy Ables leaned his head in the door and said the girl's name, and the girl responded that she was the runaway they were seeking.  Then the officers went inside the mobile home.  Officer Hodgson testified that he questioned the girl to see if she was all right.  She told him that she had done ecstasy the night before.  Officer Hodgson also testified that the girl looked tired and gaunt like she had not slept in a while, but her appearance was not as dire as the student had made it out to be.  The other officers then questioned the other occupants about who had been using marijuana and where it was.  The Appellant said that all of the marijuana in the trailer was hers and that there was some on an entertainment center in the living room.  Officer Hodgson stated that he did not go beyond the kitchen where he questioned the girl.  He did not see the marijuana until Deputy Ables brought it into the kitchen.    

            Appellant's Motion to Suppress was based on a bad entry.  Appellant argued that any warrantless search is presumed to be illegal, unless there are exigent circumstances in addition to probable cause.  The trial judge found there were exigent circumstances because there was evidence that the safety of the runaway was in jeopardy.  The Record on appeal supports the trial judge's decision.            The issue is whether the deputies were justified in entering a mobile home without a search warrant.  The facts that were in evidence show that there was a fourteen-year-old girl who had run away from home, and her family had posted flyers in an effort to find her.

            A former student contacted the Resource Officer at Clearwater High School, who in turn contacted Officer William Hodgson of the Clearwater Police Department.  The former student told Officer Hodgson that he knew the location of the girl and asked Officer Hodgson to hurry because the girl was going to leave about 1:30 that day and go away with her friend and be gone forever. The student also said that he was concerned for the girl's safety as she had told him that she was doing drugs that included ecstasy and heroin.  The student stated that he had just seen the girl that morning, and she looked terrible.  The student also told Officer Hodgson that the girl was trying to kill herself.  The former student rode with Officer Hodgson to a trailer park and pointed out the mobile home where the girl was staying.  The mobile home was outside the jurisdiction of Clearwater, so Officer Hodgson called the Sheriff's Office and waited approximately fifteen minutes until the Pinellas County deputies arrived.

            Officer Hodgson had a flyer with the girl's picture. He showed the deputies the flyer and relayed the information that he had to them. Deputy Ables had also seen the flyer on the wall of the Sheriff's Office.  Deputy Ables knocked on the door of the mobile home and announced that he was from the Sheriff's Office.  Officer Hodgson, who was standing by the hinge side of the door, could smell marijuana from inside the mobile home as Deputy Ables knocked on the door.  After knocking twice and getting no response, Deputy Ables pushed the door open and looked inside.  He saw the runaway and recognized her from the flyer that he had seen.  Next, Deputy Ables leaned his head in the door and said the girl's name, and the girl responded that she was the runaway they were seeking.  Then the officers went inside the mobile home.  Officer Hodgson testified that he questioned the girl to see if she was all right.  She told him that she had done ecstasy the night before.  Officer Hodgson also testified that the girl looked tired and gaunt like she had not slept in a while, but her appearance was not as dire as the student had made it out to be.  The other officers then questioned the other occupants about who had been using marijuana and where it was.  The Appellant said that all of the marijuana in the trailer was hers and that there was some on an entertainment center in the living room.  Officer Hodgson stated that he did not go beyond the kitchen where he questioned the girl.  He did not see the marijuana until Deputy Ables brought it into the kitchen.    

            Appellant's Motion to Suppress was based on a bad entry.  Appellant argued that any warrantless search is presumed to be illegal, unless there are exigent circumstances in addition to probable cause.  The trial judge found there were exigent circumstances because there was evidence that the safety of the runaway was in jeopardy.  The Record on appeal supports the trial judge's decision.  It is, therefore,        

            ORDERED that the Non-final Order Denying Motion to Suppress Evidence is affirmed.

            DONE AND ORDERED in chambers at Clearwater, Pinellas County, Florida, this 22nd day of March, 2001.

 

_______________________________
W. DOUGLAS BAIRD                                  
Circuit Judge, Appellate Division


________________________________
NANCY MOATE LEY                           
Circuit Judge, Appellate Division


________________________________
R. TIMOTHY PETERS                                
Circuit Judge, Appellate Division

 

Copies Furnished To:

The Honorable Robert J. Morris

Joy K. Goodyear, Esquire
Assistant Public Defender

Erik J. Lombillo, Esquire
Assistant State Attorney