Criminal Court: CRIMINAL LAW
– Traffic Stop – motion to suppress/totality of circumstances –
trial judge did not err in denying motion to suppress – officer had reasonable
or founded suspicion to initiate traffic stop based on prior observation of
vehicle parked behind closed business at 2:30 a.m., and based on observation
of several suspicious items in unoccupied vehicle, including black gloves,
blue blocker sunglasses, a wig, and a screwdriver – Order affirmed.
Ludtka v. State, No. 02-16836 (
THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE SIXTH JUDICIAL CIRCUIT OF THE STATE OF
vs. APPEAL NO: CRC02-16836CFANO
Opinion filed June _____, 2003.
Appeal from a decision of the
William H. Overton, Judge.
Walter L. Grantham, Jr., Esquire
Attorney for Appellant.
Susan M. Mitchell, Esquire
Assistant State Attorney.
ORDER AND OPINION
In the lower court, Ludtka pleaded no contest to driving under the influence (DUI) after the trial judge denied her dispositive motion to suppress. She was sentenced to one year probation, assessed various fines and costs, and her driver’s license was suspended for six months. Her single argument on appeal is that the trial judge erred in concluding that law enforcement had a well-founded suspicion of criminal activity to justify the traffic stop of her vehicle. We affirm.
trial court’s ruling on a motion to suppress is presumed correct, and a reviewing
court must interpret the evidence and reasonable inferences in the light most
favorable to sustaining the trial court’s ruling.”
Grant v. State, 718 So. 2d 238, 239 (Fla. 2d DCA 1998) (citing
Jenkins v. State, 685 So. 2d 918 (Fla. 1st DCA 1996)).
We must accord the lower court “a presumption
of correctness ... with regard to the ... determination of historical facts.” Connor v. State,
803 So. 2d 598, 608 (
In this case, the trial judge signed a written order denying the motion. Therein, the trial judge found the following facts. On September 16, 2001, at approximately 2:30 a.m., Deputy Pagels observed the defendant’s vehicle parked behind a closed business. The vehicle was backed into the space. Deputy Pagels observed several items in the unoccupied vehicle, to wit: a pair of knitted black gloves, a pair of blue blocker sunglasses, a wig, and a screwdriver. Upon seeing the vehicle leave the area, Deputy Pagels initiated a traffic stop. Based on these facts, the trial judge concluded that “given the totality of the circumstances, Deputy Pagels had a well-founded suspicion of criminal activity.”
traffic stop of the vehicle in this case “must be predicated on a founded
or reasonable suspicion which requires further investigation to determine
whether its occupants have committed, are committing, or are about to commit
a crime.” McCloud v. State, 491 So. 2d 1164, 1166
(Fla. 2d DCA 1986); see also § 901.151, Florida Statues. For purposes of deciding this issue, a court
must consider all of the facts known by the officer up until the time he or
she initiates the stop.
There will be borderline cases, of course, in which reasonable men may differ as to whether the circumstances witnessed by an officer could provide an objective foundation for his suspicion. In such cases, the following factors should be evaluated to determine whether the circumstances reasonably suggested that the suspect was involved in criminal activity: the time, the day of the week, the location, the suspect’s physical appearance, the suspect’s behavior, the appearance and manner of operation of any vehicle involved, and anything incongruous or unusual in the situation as interpreted in light of the officer’s knowledge.
In Rinehart v. State, 778 So. 2d 331 (Fla. 2d DCA 2000), law
enforcement stopped the defendant and his companion outside of an apartment
building at 4:30 a.m. near their vehicle during Spring Break.
The purpose of the stop was to question the individuals; however, the
stop soon progressed into an investigatory detention, after which law enforcement
observed cocaine on the defendant’s person.
Riley v. State, 737 So. 2d 1111 (Fla. 2d DCA 1999), law enforcement
spotted a man driving his vehicle behind a shopping center at 3:00 a.m. in
Here, Deputy Pagels articulated the reasons for her stop. She testified that she had investigated over 100 burglaries; that she patrolled the area in question for approximately a year and a half; that it was shortly after 2:00 a.m. when she spotted Ludtka’s vehicle; that she was familiar with the businesses in the area and somewhat familiar with the vehicles owned by the employees of those businesses; that she had never previously seen Ludtka’s vehicle in that area; that upon approaching the unoccupied vehicle, she observed, in plain view, the black gloves, the large sunglasses, the wig, and the screwdriver, which in her experience were items commonly used to commit a burglary and mask one’s identity; that after processing the vehicle’s tag information, she discovered that it was an out-of-state vehicle; and that the vehicle was backed up against the rear of the business, which was closed at the time.
on our review of the record, and based on the totality of the foregoing factors
as known to Deputy Pagels at the time, we find no error in the trial judge’s
determination that the cumulative impact of the factors listed above established
a particularized and objective basis for Deputy Pagels to suspect that criminal
activity was afoot. Although the time
of night is per se insufficient, Riley, 737 So. 2d at 1112, and although
the presence of a vehicle parked next to a closed business in the middle of
the night is, in and of itself, insufficient, Baker v. State, 754 So.
2d 154 (
AND ORDERED in Chambers, at
JOHN A. SCHAEFER, Circuit Judge
W. DOUGLAS BAIRD, Circuit Judge
NANCY MOATE LEY, Circuit Judge
cc: Susan M. Mitchell, Esquire, Assistant State Attorney
Walter L. Grantham, Jr., Esquire