County Traffic Court: TRAFFIC INFRACTIONS – UTC form was sufficient to inform defendant of charge against her when it had the box careless driving marked and indicated the statute violated. Failure to state exactly how the defendant was careless did not render the UTC vague. Order of Dismissal Reversed. State v. Asbell, No. CRC 05-63 APANO (Fla. 6th Cir. App. Ct. October 8, 2007).

 

 

IN THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE SIXTH JUDICIAL CIRCUIT

OF THE STATE OF FLORIDA IN AND FOR PINELLAS COUNTY

 

STATE OF FLORIDA

 

            Appellant,

 

v.                                                                                                                                                                   Appeal No. CRC 05-63 APANO

  UCN522005AP000063XXXXXCR

ALICIA ASBELL

 

            Appellee.

_____________________________/

 

Opinion filed __________________.

 

Appeal from a decision of

the Pinellas County Court

County Judge Kathleen Hessinger

 

Christopher Ballard, Esq.

Assistant State Attorney

 

Aimee Wyant, Esq.

Kevin Schmitt, Esq.

Assistant Public Defenders

ORDER AND OPINION

            (J. Demers)

 

            THIS MATTER is before the Court on the State’s appeal from a decision of the Pinellas County Court granting the defendant’s motion to dismiss. After reviewing the briefs and record, this Court reverses the order of dismissal.

            The police cited the defendant for careless driving. A Uniform Traffic Citation (“UTC”) form was given to the defendant. The UTC had a box checked indicating a careless driving charge. The UTC noted that the defendant was charged with violating Florida Statute 316.1925. In addition, the UTC noted that there was a crash that caused $500 damage without injuring anyone. The defendant filed a motion to dismiss, claiming that she was unable to respond to the charge because it was not specific enough. The trial court agreed, and granted the defendant’s motion to dismiss the charges. The State is appealing that order of dismissal.

            The defendant argued that the UTC was too vague because it failed to state exactly how she was careless. In support of its argument, the defendant presented the trial court with the case of Robinson v. State, 152 So. 717 (Fla. 1934). In Robinson, the court ruled that an affidavit alleging that the defendant drove a motor vehicle in a “careless and reckless manner” was vague and indefinite, and it set aside the judgment.

            Robinson, however, was decided over seventy years ago, long before the present UTC notification procedure came into being in the Uniform Disposition of Traffic Infractions Act enacted in 1977. Since Robinson was decided, the Florida Supreme Court has addressed the issue of what is sufficient wording to inform a defendant of what is reckless driving. In McCreary v. State, 371 So.2d 1024, 1028 (Fla. 1979), the Court held that an information charging “that the defendant, on or about June 26, 1977, while operating his vehicle in a reckless manner likely to cause death or great bodily harm to another, did kill one James Sanders in Bay County, Florida is legally sufficient to inform the defendant of the nature of the accusation against which he must defend.” The Court went on to hold that the information did not mislead the defendant or embarrass him in the preparation of his defense.  There were no specific allegations about how the defendant was reckless in his driving. Nevertheless, the Court found his motion to dismiss the information was correctly denied.

            Although the decision in McCreary addressed reckless driving, its reasoning applies equally to careless driving. Both statutes are similar; and a charging document that tracks the statutory language of the crime --- be it reckless driving like that in McCreary or careless driving like the charge in the case at bar --- is legally sufficient. The charging document is sufficient to inform the defendant of the charge against her, and it did not mislead her or embarrass her in her defense. Accordingly, the defendant’s motion to dismiss should have been denied.

            The trial court had only the Florida Supreme Court decision in Robinson before it, which justified the decision reached. This Court, however, has struggled unsuccessfully to reconcile Robinson with McCreary. They are irreconcilable. Since McCreary is more recent, and consistent with the UTC procedures that were adopted after Robinson, McCreary must control.

            IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED that the order of dismissal is reversed, and this case is remanded back to the trial court for action consistent with this Order and Opinion.

            DONE AND ORDERED in Chambers at Clearwater, Pinellas County, Florida this _____ day of September, 2007.

                                                                        _____________________________

                                                                                    David A. Demers

                                                                                    Circuit Judge

 

 

 

____________________________                ______________________________

            Robert J. Morris, Jr.                                         Irene H. Sullivan

            Circuit Judge                                                    Circuit Judge                                                   

                                                                                   

cc:        State Attorney

            Public Defender

            Judge Hessinger