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 00-16690 CFANO

JAMES E. DOUGHERTY,

††††††††††† Appellee.

________________________________/

Opinion filed April 27, 2001.

Appeal From Order Granting Defendantís Motion to Suppress

Pinellas County Court

County Judge Patrick K. Caddell

Michael P. Loberg, Esq.
Assistant State Attorney
Attorney for Appellant

Ken Hadley, Esq.
Assistant Public Defender
Attorney for Appellee

ORDER AND OPINION

††††††††††† THIS MATTER is before the Court on the Stateís appeal from the trial courtís Order granting the defendantís Motion to Suppress.† After reviewing the briefs and record, this Court reverses the trial courtís decision.

Our review of this case is de novo.† See, Rosenquist v. State, 769 So.2d 1051, 1052 (Fla. 2d DCA 2000).† In this de novo review, this Court defers to the factual findings of the trial judge, but will consider whether as a matter of law those facts amounted to a well-founded suspicion to stop the defendant.

On March 11, 2000, Corporal Richard Bennett of the Pinellas County Sheriffís Office, while on duty, drove into the Racetrack Gas Station parking lot and noticed one other car parked in the lot.† Corporal Bennett ran the carís tag and learned that the car was registered to a male.† He then ran a driverís license check on the vehicleís registered owner that came back suspended.† A male got into the driverís side of the vehicle, and backed out of the parking lot.† Corporal Bennett, believing that the defendant, who was driving the vehicle, was the owner and was committing a crime, initiated a traffic stop to ascertain the driverís identity.† As a result of the stop, the defendant was charged with DUI and No Valid Driverís License.†

Defendant filed a Motion to Suppress arguing that the defendant was stopped without any founded suspicion of criminal activity.† Based on the testimony given and the law argued, the trial court granted defendantís motion.

The State raises two issues on appeal.† First, the State argues that the trial court erred in its determination that Corporal Bennett did not have a well-founded, reasonable suspicion to stop the defendant for driving with a suspended license when Corporal Bennett testified that the gender description he received from a random tag check matched the gender of the driver of the vehicle.†† A well-founded suspicion of criminal activity is necessary to justify an investigatory stop.† Berard v. State, 731 So.2d 768 (Fla. 2d DCA 1999); White v. State, 737 So.2d 1117 (Fla. 2d DCA 1999). Furthermore, in Smith v. State, 574 So.2d 300, 301 (Fla. 5th DCA 1991), the court held that ďan officerís investigatory detention of a vehicleís driver is supported by a well-founded suspicion of unlawful activity when the officer first determines that the vehicleís registered owner does not possess a valid driverís license.Ē†

In the case at bar, Corporal Bennett had determined that the vehicleís registered owner was a male that did not possess a valid driverís license.† After observing that the driver was a male, and believing the driver to be the vehicleís owner and thus driving with a suspended license, Corporal Bennett initiated an investigatory stop. We therefore agree that the trial court erred in finding that Corporal Bennett did not have a well-founded, reasonable suspicion to stop the defendant for driving with a suspended license.

The second issue raised by the State is that the trial court erred in applying State v. Perkins, 760 So.2d 85 (Fla. 2000), because Perkins is factually inconsistent with the case at bar and addresses an inapplicable legal issue.† We also agree on this point.† The issue in Perkins was whether a defendantís identity is properly suppressible where the officer lacks reasonable suspicion to conduct an investigatory stop.† The issue in this case is whether Corporal Bennett had a reasonable suspicion to conduct an investigatory stop.† In Perkins, the stop was already deemed unlawful.† In this case, we find that Corporal Bennett lawfully initiated an investigatory stop.† Perkins, therefore, is inapplicable and not controlling.† Accordingly, Smith is binding authority on the trial court, since Perkins does not overrule Smith.† See, Pardo v. State, 596 So.2d 665 (Fla. 1992).

Based on the forgoing, it is

ORDERED AND ADJUDGED that the trial courtís Order granting defendantís Motion to Suppress 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 27th day of April, 2001.

 

__________________________
W. DOUGLAS BAIRD
Circuit Judge
Primary Appellate Judge


___________________________
NANCY MOATE LEY
Circuit Judge


___________________________
R. TIMOTHY PETERS
Circuit Judge

 

Copies furnished to:

The Honorable Patrick K. Caddell

Michael P. Loberg, Esq.
Assistant State Attorney

Ken Hadley, Esq.
Assistant Public Defender