for Writ of Certiorari to Review Quasi-Judicial Action, Department of Highway
Safety and Motor Vehicles: DRIVER’S LICENSES – lawful arrest – fellow officer
rule – back-up officer had authority to arrest driver for DUI – officer conducting
traffic stop had first hand knowledge of the events when he observed the car
accident – back-up officer could rely on those representations to develop
probable to make a lawful arrest. Petition denied. Grady v. Dept. of Highway
Safety and Motor Vehicles, No. 03-5069AP-88B (
JEROME PETER GRADY,
vs. Appeal No. 03-5069AP-88B
HIGHWAY SAFETY AND MOTOR VEHICLES,
DIVISION OF DRIVER LICENSES,
THIS CAUSE came before the Court on the Petition for Writ of Certiorari and the Response. Upon consideration of the same, the record and being otherwise fully advised, the Court finds that the Petition must be denied as set forth below.
The Petitioner, Jerome Peter Grady (Grady), seeks review of the Final
Order of License Suspension, entered October 21, 2003, in which the hearing
officer for the Respondent, Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles
(Department), concluded that Grady’s driving privilege was properly suspended
for a period of six months for driving under the influence (DUI). In reviewing the Department’s order, this Court
must determine (1) whether procedural due process had been accorded, (2) whether
the essential requirements of law had been observed, and (3) whether the administrative
findings and judgment were supported by competent substantial evidence.
See Vichich v. Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles,
799 So.2d 1069, 1073 (
On appeal, Grady argues that the hearing officer erred in sustaining his license suspension as the hearing officer did not have competent substantial evidence that Grady was lawfully arrested and charged with a violation of Florida Statutes, § 316.193. The record shows that Deputy Heaton, of the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, responded as back-up to the scene of a single-car accident that had just been witnessed by Deputy Harmer of the same agency. Deputy Heaton testified that Deputy Harmer informed him that he observed Grady’s vehicle traveling at a high rate of speed, run a stop sign, drive into a person’s yard and then make a u-turn before coming to a stop. Deputy Heaton’s Incident Report also discloses that Deputy Harmer had witnessed a single-car crash. Upon making contact with Grady, Officer Heaton observed signs of impairment and initiated a DUI investigation while Deputy Harmer completed the accident investigation. Grady failed the subsequent field sobriety tests and was arrested by Deputy Heaton for DUI. The results of the breath tests showed an unlawful breath alcohol level of .128g/210L and .141g/210L.
Grady argues that Deputy Heaton did not have the authority to make the arrest since Deputy Heaton did not observe the accident, nor did he personally conduct the accident investigation. However, under the facts of this case, the “fellow officer rule” allowed Deputy Heaton to rely on the representations of Deputy Harmer, who had firsthand knowledge of the events, to develop probable cause to make a lawful arrest of Grady for DUI. See State, Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles v. Shonyo, 659 So.2d 352, 353 (Fla. 2d DCA 1995)(explaining that the fellow officer’s rule allows the arresting officer to assume probable cause to arrest the suspect exists when he or she relies upon representations of the officer who had firsthand knowledge of the events); see also Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles v. Leonard, 718 So.2d 314 (Fla. 5th DCA 1998)(holding that, under the fellow officer rule, police officer from jurisdiction in which the driver was stopped was permitted to rely upon information conveyed by officer from another jurisdiction, who had seen the driver’s erratic driving, to establish probable cause to stop the driver); State v. Eldridge, 565 So.2d 787 (Fla. 2d DCA 1990)(finding that the deputy who observed the defendant’s violation of DUI statute had the right to summon the assistance of another deputy, who, in turn, had the authority to make arrest based on the first deputy’s observations).
The key distinction between the cases cited above and those relied upon by the Petitioner is that Deputy Harmer observed the single-car accident, upon which he conducted a lawful traffic stop, and then relayed his first-hand observations to Deputy Heaton. (emphasis added). The fellow officer rule was properly invoked in this case as Deputy Heaton used the information conveyed by Deputy Harmer, together with his own observations of Grady’s inebriated state, to develop probable cause to arrest Grady for DUI. See State, Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles v. Porter, 791 So.2d 32 (Fla. 2d DCA 2001)(holding that under the fellow officer rule, one law enforcement officer may develop probable cause to arrest based in part on facts know to another officer); see also Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles v. Currier, 824 So.2d 966, 968 (Fla. 1st DCA 2002)(same). Therefore, the analysis set forth in Fila v. State, Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, 8 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 547a (Fla. 17th Cir. App. Ct. June 6, 2001), and the cases discussed therein, do not apply as those cases involved situations wherein neither the responding officer(s) nor the arresting officer observed the suspect’s alleged unlawful behavior of driving or in actual physical control of a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol. See id. (quashing license suspension where neither the arresting officer nor the community service aides who conducted the accident investigation saw the licensee driving or in actual physical control of the vehicle).
Accordingly, it is therefore,
ORDERED AND ADJUDGED that the Petition for Writ of Certiorari is denied.
ORDERED in Chambers, at
DAVID A. DEMERS
Circuit Judge, Appellate Division
Copies furnished to:
Craig Epifanio, Esquire
Jason Helfant, Assistant General Counsel
Bureau of Driver Improvement