Petition for Writ of
Certiorari to Review Quasi-Judicial Action, Department of Highway Safety and
Motor Vehicles: DRIVER’S LICENSES – probable cause for
traffic stop – fellow officer rule allowed arresting deputy to rely on
representations of officer that conducted traffic stop – driver was observed
driving on wrong side of wrong, failed to maintain single lane and was paced
going 65 m.p.h. in a 45 m.p.h. zone – competent substantial evidence supports hearing
officer’s conclusion that stop was lawful - Petition denied. Truxton v. Dept. of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, No.
IN THE CIRCUIT COURT FOR THE SIXTH JUDICIAL CIRCUIT
JEFFREY C. TRUXTON,
vs. Appeal No. 06-0017AP-88B
HIGHWAY SAFETY AND MOTOR VEHICLES,
DIVISION OF DRIVER LICENSES,
THIS CAUSE came before the Court on the Petition for Writ of Certiorari, the Response, and the Reply. 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.
Petitioner, Jeffrey C. Truxton (Truxton), seeks review of the Final Order of
License Suspension, entered February 10, 2006, in which the Respondent,
Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (Department), suspended Truxton’s
driving privilege for a period of one year for driving under the
influence. In reviewing the Final Order
and the administrative action taken by the Department, this Court must
determine whether Truxton was afforded procedural due process, whether the
essential requirements of law were observed, and whether the Department’s
findings and judgment are supported by competent substantial evidence. See Vichich v. Department of
Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, 799 So.2d 1069, 1073 (
After a formal review hearing, the hearing officer made the following findings of fact, which neither party disputes:
On December 24, 2005, Officer Comini of the Tarpon Springs Police Department responded to assist Officer Spatz with a possible intoxicated driver. Officer Spatz had stopped Jeffrey Chadwick Truxton for speeding and failing to maintain a single lane. When Officer Spatz made contact with Mr. Truxton he smelled the odor of an alcoholic beverage. Mr. Truxton informed Officer Spatz that he had consumed alcoholic beverages.
Officer Comini arrived and observed Mr. Truxton exhibited signs of impairment: a strong odor of an alcoholic beverage, bloodshot and watery eyes, slurred speech and unsteady balance. Mr. Truxton refused to perform the Field Sobriety Exercises.
Officer Comini arrested Mr. Truxton for DUI. Implied Consent was read and Mr. Truxton refused to submit to a breath test. His privilege to drive was suspended for his refusal.
At the conclusion of the hearing, the hearing officer sustained Truxton’s license suspension for a period of twelve months for DUI.
On appeal, Truxton raises three issues: (1) whether there was probable cause to conduct a traffic stop; (2) whether there was probable cause to arrest Truxton for DUI to the extent his normal faculties were impaired; and, (3) whether the breath test refusal was valid since Truxton was not lawfully stopped, detained, and arrested for DUI.
Court finds that the hearing officer could make a determination that Truxton
was lawfully arrested for DUI based on the documents which were generated at
the time of his arrest. See Department
of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles v. Satter, 643 So.2d 692, 695 (Fla.
5th DCA 1994). Stringent rules of
evidence, applicable in a criminal setting, do not apply in a department
administrative proceeding. Department
of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles v. Alliston, 813 So.2d 141, 145 (
The record evidence supports the
traffic stop of Truxton. As set forth in
the DUI citation and Officer Spatz’s arrest report, Truxton was observed
failing to maintain a single lane, driving on the wrong side of the road, and
was visually paced speeding at 62 m.p.h. in a 45 m.p.h. zone. Officer Spatz could conduct a traffic stop of
Truxton for speeding alone, based on his visual and aural perceptions.
Once Officer Spatz conducted a lawful stop, he observed several signs of impairment, observations that were then relayed to Officer Comini. The “fellow officer rule” allowed Officer Comini to rely on the representations of Officer Spatz, who had firsthand knowledge of the events, to develop probable cause to make a lawful arrest of Truxton 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); 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).
In addition to the observations relayed by Officer Spatz, Officer Comini observed Truxton’s eyes to be watery and bloodshot, that he had the pungent odor of alcohol, and that his speech was slurred. Truxton admitted that he had been drinking and failed the Walk and Turn test, then refused to perform any further field sobriety tests. It is clear that there was more than the odor of alcohol to support Truxton’s arrest for DUI. The Court finds that there is competent substantial evidence to support that finding that Truxton was lawfully arrested for DUI and the Court cannot reweigh the record evidence to arrive at a different conclusion. See Satter, 643 So.2d at 695.
The last issue, premised on Truxton’s arguments that the stop and subsequent DUI arrest were unlawful, must fail. Therefore, it is,
ORDERED AND ADJUDGED that the Petition for Writ of Certiorari is denied.
AND ORDERED in Chambers, at
DAVID A. DEMERS
Circuit Judge, Appellate Division
PETER RAMSBERGER ANTHONY RONDOLINO
Circuit Judge, Appellate Division Circuit Judge, Appellate Division
Copies furnished to:
Robert D. Eckard, Esquire
Jason Helfant, Assistant General Counsel
Dept. of Highway Safety & Motor Vehicles
Bureau of Administrative Reviews