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

BRENT GRIFFITH,
Petitioner,

vs.                                                                                                         Appeal No.01-123-CI-88A

DEPARTMENT OF HIGHWAY SAFETY & MOTOR VEHICLES,
Respondent.

____________________________________/

 ORDER DENYING PETITION FOR WRIT OF CERTIORARI

            This cause came before the Court on the Petition For Writ Of Certiorari and the Response.  Upon consideration of the same, the Court finds that the Final Order of License Suspension, entered December 8, 2000, conforms to the essential requirements of law and is supported by competent substantial evidence. Haines City Community Development v. Heggs, 658 So.2d 523, 530 (Fla. 1995).  Further, the Court finds that the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (Department) satisfied all procedural due process requirements in conducting its formal review of the Petitioner’s license suspension.  See id.

            The record shows that Officer Hayes, of the Indian Shores Police Department, initiated a traffic stop in response to the Petitioner’s slow driving speed and after observing the Petitioner cross the median yellow line twice and then drift back into his lane.  Upon making contact with the Petitioner, Officer Hayes smelled a strong odor of alcohol and noticed that the Petitioner’s eyes were bloodshot, watery and glassy.  Officer Hayes then requested the Petitioner to perform various field sobriety tests, which he failed.  After being placed under arrested for DUI and post-Miranda, the Petitioner admitted to drinking several Rum and Cokes.  The subsequent Breath Test revealed that the Petitioner’s blood alcohol level was twice the legal limit.

            The Petitioner argues that his slow driving speed and hitting the yellow line twice did not provide an objective basis for Officer Hayes to initiate a traffic stop.  However, Officer Hayes’ observation of the Petitioner’s driving behavior, even if it did not rise to the level of a traffic offense, did provide an objective basis to initiate a traffic stop.  See Roberts v. State, 732 So.2d 1127, 1128 (Fla. 4th DCA 1999); see also Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles v. DeShong, 603 So.2d 1349, 1352 (Fla. 2d DCA 1992)(citations omitted)(holding that in order to effect a valid traffic stop for DUI, an officer need only a founded or reasonable suspicion of criminal activity).   Furthermore, after observing the Petitioner’s driving behavior, an investigatory stop by Officer Hayes was warranted to ascertain the Petitioner’s welfare.  See DeShong, 603 So.2d at 1352 (stating that a legitimate concern for the safety of the motoring public can warrant a brief investigatory stop of a vehicle to determine whether a driver is ill, tired, or driving under the influence in situations less suspicious than that required for other types of criminal behavior).

            Therefore, the Court finds that there is competent substantial evidence in the record to support the Hearing Officer’s finding that the Petitioner was lawfully stopped, and subsequently, lawfully arrested.  The Court also finds that whether the Petitioner “hit” the yellow line or “crossed” the yellow line was a conflict for the Hearing Officer to resolve and, further, is not outcome determinative in this case.  See Heifetz v. Dept. of Business Regulation, Div. of Alcoholic Beverages & Tobacco, 475 So.2d 1277, 1281 (Fla. 1st DCA 1985).

            Petitioner’s argument that Officer Hayes did not have probable cause to make an arrest also lacks merit.  As stated above, upon making contact with the Petitioner, Officer Hayes detected a strong odor of alcohol and noticed that the Petitioner’s eyes were bloodshot, watery and glassy.  Officer Hayes then conducted field sobriety tests, which the Petitioner failed.  Consequently, Officer Hayes did have probable cause to believe, and reasonably conclude, that the Petitioner was driving under the influence of alcohol.  See Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles v. Favino, 667 So.2d 305, 309 (Fla. 1st DCA 1995)(stating that “probable cause” sufficient to justify an arrest exists where the facts and circumstances, as analyzed from the officer’s knowledge, special training and practical experience, and of which he has reasonably trustworthy information, are sufficient in themselves for a reasonable person to reach the conclusion that an offense has been committed); see also State v. Joy, 637 So.2d 946, 948 (Fla. 3d DCA 1994)(citations omitted). 

            Finally, as there was probable cause for Officer Hayes to believe that the Petitioner was driving under the influence, and the Petitioner was lawfully arrested, the subsequent Breath Test was properly obtained and considered by the Hearing Officer in entering its Final Order of License Suspension. 

            It is therefore,

            ORDERED AND ADJUDGED that the Petition For Writ Of Certiorari is denied.

            DONE AND ORDERED in Chambers, at Clearwater, Pinellas County, Florida this ________ day of April 2001.                        

 

__________________________________
W. DOUGLAS BAIRD
Circuit Judge, Appellate Division

 

Copies Furnished To:

Robert D. Eckard, Esquire
777 Alderman Road
Palm Harbor, FL  34683
Attorney for Petitioner

Judson M. Chapman, Assistant General Counsel
Florida Dept. of Highway Safety & Motor Vehicles
Neil Kirkman Building, A-432
Tallahassee, FL  32399-0504
Attorney for Respondent

Florida Dept. of Highway Safety & Motor Vehicles
Bureau of Driver Improvement
2814 East Hillsborough Avenue
Tampa, FL  33610

Staff Attorney