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

 

BENJAMIN COPELAND

† ††††††††Appellant,

v.                                          Appeal No. CRC 00-6298 CFANO

STATE OF FLORIDA

††††††††† Appellee.

_____________________________/

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

ORDER AND OPINION

††††† (Schaefer, J.)

††††† THIS MATTER is before the Court on Benjamin Copelandís 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 courtís 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 defendantís vehicle. The defendantís 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 judgeís factual determinations are given deference unless clearly erroneous. See State v. Setzler, 667 So.2d 343 (Fla. 1st DCA 1995). This Courtís review of the transcript finds ample support for the trial judgeís 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 judgeís ruling that the deputyís 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
Circuit Judge


___________________________†
John A. Schaefer
Circuit Judge


___________________________
Irene H. Sullivan
Circuit Judge

 

††††

cc:†† State Attorney

††††††† Public Defender

††††††† Judge Beach