County Criminal Court: CRIMINAL LAW – Search and Seizure – Stop – Defendant’s minimal weaving and his failure to properly stop at a traffic light (all four of the car’s wheels were over the white line) justified a stop. Judgment and sentence affirmed. Sowers v. State, No. CRC 05-6 APANO, (Fla. 6th Cir.App.Ct. Oct. 26, 2005).










Appeal No. CRC 05-6 APANO









Opinion  filed ____________________.


Appeal from a judgment and sentence

entered by the Pinellas County Court

County Judge Dorothy Vaccaro


Janie Stoetzel, Esq.

Assistant Public Defender


Kendall Davidson, Esq.

Assistant State Attorney




            THIS MATTER is before the Court on the defendant, Richard Sowers’, appeal from a judgment and sentence entered by the Pinellas County Court. After reviewing the briefs and record, this Court affirms the judgment and sentence.

            The defendant entered a no contest plea to DUI charges. He reserved his right to appeal the denial of his motion to suppress. The defendant contends that his vehicle should not have been stopped because no traffic infraction or crime was committed, and the driving depicted on the videotape was insufficiently unusual to justify a traffic stop.

 A trial court’s determination of reasonable suspicion to conduct an investigatory stop or detention is subject to de novo review. Ornelas v. United States, 517 U.S. 690 (1996); DeLeon v. State, 700 So.2d 718 (Fla. 2d DCA 1997). “Appellate review of a motion to suppress involves questions of both law and fact and an appellate court must make a de novo review of the trial court’s application of the law to the facts.” Rosenquist v. State, 769 So.2d 1051 (Fla. 2d DCA 2000). 

This Court has reviewed the videotape and finds that there was evidence that the defendant, driving at approximately 2:30 A.M, was minimally weaving within his traffic lane. The videotape, however, also shows the defendant failing to properly stop at the wide white line at the traffic light. The defendant’s vehicle had all four of its wheels beyond the white line. This was a traffic infraction, and provided an objective reason for the stop.[1]

Moreover, even if it could be said that the defendant did not commit a traffic infraction in this case, the defendant’s weaving, coupled with the unusual manner in which he halted, justified an investigatory stop. In fact, the deputy testified that because of the unusual driving he suspected that the driver might be ill or impaired. Investigative traffic stops have long been upheld under such circumstances. See Bailey v. State, 319 So.2d 22 (Fla. 1975)(because of the dangers inherent to our modern vehicular mode of life, the police may be justified in stopping a vehicle to determine the reason for its unusual operation); Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles v. DeShong, 603 So.2d 1349 (Fla. 2d DCA 1992)(a legitimate concern for the safety of the motoring public can warrant a brief investigatory stop to determine if the driver is ill, tired, or driving under the influence in situations less suspicious than that required for other types of criminal behavior); State v. Davidson, 744 So.2d 1180 (Fla. 2d DCA 1999)(police observation of defendant driving significantly below speed limit and drifting in and out of lane warranted stop); Ndow v. State, 864 So.2d 1248 (Fla. 5th DCA 2004)(if police observe motor vehicle being operated in unusual manner, there might be justification for stop even when no traffic infraction seen or citation given). The defendant’s motion to suppress was properly denied.

            IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED that the judgment and sentence are affirmed.   DONE AND ORDERED in Chambers at Clearwater, Pinellas County, Florida this _____ day of October, 2005.



                                                                                                            Nancy Moate Ley

                                                                                                            Circuit Judge





                                                                                                            R. Timothy Peters

                                                                                                            Circuit Judge





                                                                                                            John A. Schaefer

                                                                                                            Circuit Judge


cc:        State Attorney


            Public Defender


            Judge Vaccaro

[1] The defendant’s contention that the particular traffic statute in question (§ 316.075) is somehow unconstitutionally vague is without merit.