v. Appeal No. CRC 00-6298 CFANO
STATE OF FLORIDA
Opinion filed ___________________.
Appeal from a decision of the
Pinellas County Court
Judge Robert Beach
Joy Goodyear, Esq.
Assistant Public Defender
Attorney for appellant
Erik Lombillo, Esq.
Assistant State Attorney
THIS MATTER is before the Court on Benjamin Copeland’s appeal from a decision of the Pinellas County Court denying his motion to suppress. Copeland pleaded no contest to the charges of possession of marijuana and driving under the influence. He properly reserved his right to appeal the trial court’s denial of his motion to suppress. After reviewing the briefs and record, this Court affirms the decision of the trial court.A deputy was dispatched to an apartment complex to investigate a complaint of a disturbance. Specifically, the complaint was a disturbance in front of a particular apartment with several black males, one of whom had a gun. As the deputy pulled into the parking lot he observed the defendant, a black male, driving his car in reverse at a moderate rate of speed, away from the site of the alleged disturbance and towards the exit. The deputy had to stop his cruiser to avoid colliding with the defendant’s vehicle. The defendant’s vehicle also stopped. There was no way to go around the cruiser and the defendant did not attempt to move his car forward and head in the other direction. At that point the deputy got out of his car and approached the defendant. After making contact with the defendant, the deputy noticed that the defendant appeared to be impaired. A DUI investigation was subsequently begun. The trial judge found that the deputy did not detain the defendant. The test is whether or not a reasonable person believed he was free to leave. See United States v. Mendenhall, 446 U.S. 544 (1980); State v. Wilson, 566 So.2d 585 (Fla. 2d DCA 1990). The trial judge found that the two cars were coming in opposite directions on a narrow road and both stopped to avoid hitting each other. A trial judge’s factual determinations are given deference unless clearly erroneous. See State v. Setzler, 667 So.2d 343 (Fla. 1st DCA 1995). This Court’s review of the transcript finds ample support for the trial judge’s decision. Therefore, the cases cited by the defendant in which the police actually took actions to stop the defendant, are not applicable.
This Court also agrees with the trial judge’s ruling that the deputy’s acts of getting out of his cruiser and approaching the defendant were reasonable under the circumstances. Faced with the standoff, it was reasonable for the deputy to get out of his cruiser to confront the driver. The fact that the deputy also believed that the defendant may have been involved in the disturbance does not change the nature of the encounter and transform it into an unlawful stop.
IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED that the decision of the trial court is affirmed.
DONE AND ORDERED this _____ day of January, 2001.
(Demers and Sullivan, JJ., concur).
David A. Demers
John A. Schaefer
Irene H. Sullivan
cc: State Attorney