County Court: CRIMINAL LAW – Search and Seizure – Police did not have reason to involuntarily detain individual where police received anonymous tip that car was being “stripped” by two men at particular location, and when police arrived at location they found two men merely changing a tire. Ruling affirmed. State v. Brown, 03-69 APANO (Fla. 6th Cir.App.Ct. May 12, 2004).











v.                                                                                                                                           Appeal No. CRC 03-00069 APANO







Opinion filed __________________.


Appeal from a decision of the

Pinellas County Court

County Judge Amy Williams


Joseph Werner, Esq.

Assistant State Attorney


Richard McKyton, Esq.

Attorney for appellee



            THIS MATTER is before the Court on the State’s appeal of a decision by the Pinellas County Court to grant the defendant’s motion to suppress. After reviewing the briefs and record, this Court affirms the decision of the lower court.

            At the suppression hearing, one of the investigating officers testified that the police had received an anonymous tip that two black men were at a particular location and were “possibly stripping” a silver car. The officer knew that the area was a high crime area. When the officers arrived at the location, they saw a silver car jacked up with its tire off. There was damage to the front end of the car. The officers also saw two black males at the scene. The officers began to investigate, and the men told them that the car was a rental and had been involved in an accident. The officers ran the tag and were in the process of calling the rental company to confirm the story when the defendant, one of the black males, began to leave. One of the officers detained him. A non-violent altercation ensued, the defendant was arrested, and marijuana was seized from his clothing. The defendant sought to suppress any evidence of the marijuana, and the trial court granted the motion, finding that the officers had no legal cause to detain the defendant because they had insufficient reason to believe there was criminal activity. The State is appealing that decision.

The trial court’s ruling consists of a mixed question of law and fact. The ultimate ruling is subject to de novo review, but any findings of fact will be sustained if supported by competent substantial evidence. Connor  v. State, 803 So.2d 598 (Fla. 2001). The State is not disputing the trial court’s factual findings.

The recent case of Dickey v. State, 865 So.2d 614 (Fla. 2d DCA 2004) sets forth the legal analysis that must be used to review situations such as this. If the police have a founded suspicion that a person has committed, is committing, or is about to commit a crime, then they may temporarily detain that person. The founded suspicion must be based on the totality of the circumstances as viewed by an experienced officer.

            In the case at bar, the police observed activity that did not quite rise to the level necessary to justify a temporary detention. The activity viewed was merely two men changing a tire on a car. Given the anonymous phone tip, this may have appeared suspicious. But in the absence of other facts to suggest criminal activity [which is required even with anonymous phone tips; see Salino v. State, 763 So.2d 1249 (Fla. 4th DCA 2000)], it is insufficient to justify detaining the defendant.

Although the State cites several cases in its brief for the proposition that flight coupled with innocent activity permits a temporary detention; that is not the situation here. It cannot be said that the defendant immediately took flight when the officers approached. In fact, the men came up to the officers and engaged them in conversation. The officers were certainly permitted to conduct an investigation pursuant to a consensual encounter with the men. However, the officers lacked sufficient reason to detain either of the individuals. Since the discovery of the marijuana occurred after the defendant was improperly detained, the trial court was correct to grant the defendant’s motion to suppress the evidence of the marijuana.

            IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED that the decision of the lower court is affirmed.

            DONE AND ORDERED in Chambers at Clearwater, Pinellas County, Florida this _____ day of May, 2004.


                                                                                    James R. Case

                                                                                    Circuit Judge





                                                                                    Nancy Moate Ley

                                                                                    Circuit Judge




                                                                                    John A. Schaefer

                                                                                    Circuit Judge


cc:  State Attorney

       Richard McKyton, Esq.

       Judge Williams