County Criminal Court: CRIMINAL LAW – Traffic Stop – DETENTION-– detention of
the appellant, while waiting for the arrival of the STEP unit deputy to conduct
the investigation, did not transform the encounter into
a seizure without probable cause- Having probable cause to arrest the appellant
himself, it is clear that the deputy was clearly justified in detaining
the appellant for the time it took to get a more highly specialized officer on
the scene. Order affirmed. Littlejohn v. State, No. 0605304CFAWS,
IN THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE SIXTH JUDICIAL CIRCUIT
OF THE STATE OF
vs. Appeal No: 0605304CFAWS
Curtis Crider, Esq.
Neil P. O’Brien, Esq. A.S.A.,
ORDER AND OPINION
On March 24, 2005, the appellant was charged by Information with three misdemeanors; Possession of Marijuana, Possession of Paraphernalia and DUI. Appellant filed a motion to suppress and a hearing was held on June 21, 2005. The Court denied the Motion to Suppress and appellant now appeals, raising two issues for review. First, the trial court erred in denying the defendant’s motion to suppress based on an illegal traffic stop, and second, the trial court erred in finding the defendant was not illegally detained and that the time period to issue the citation was reasonable. After reviewing the briefs and record, this Court affirms the trial court’s decision.
At the hearing,
Deputy Thomas testified that on February 19, 2005, at approximately 3:00 a.m.,
he observed the appellant operating his vehicle Westbound on
After hearing the evidence, the court denied the appellant’s motion to suppress. Although the court found that the deputy’s testimony did not support a traffic stop for careless driving; the court did find that the defendant violated F.S. 316.076. This Court finds that the trial court did not error, since a violation of F.S. 316.076(1)(a) is sufficient probable cause to conduct a stop.
However, based on the deputy’s testimony, the defendant filed a second Motion to Suppress, alleging the deputy held the defendant longer than necessary to write a traffic infraction. At the appellant’s first motion to suppress hearing, Deputy Thomas testified that :
In this particular case I didn’t put in my notes that I smelled an odor of alcohol, I can’t testify to that or, you know, be sure of that, but I did call for another deputy.
I can only assume that, you know, if I called for another deputy its because I smelled one of those things, but I can’t testify that I did actually smell alcohol because I didn’t write it in my notes.
At the second hearing on the motion to suppress, the deputy was asked to explain what, if anything, he noticed about the driver the moment he approached him after the stop, and the deputy replied: “I could smell an odor of alcohol.” He testified that he has had a chance to review the transcript of his testimony, which reflected the same information as was contained in the probable cause affidavit. He acknowledged that at the last hearing, he did testify that he was pretty sure he had smelled alcohol on appellant’s breath because that is the only reason why he would have called the STEP unit. He was then asked “Deputy, after having reviewed the PC affidavit and other documentation concerning this offense are you able to say a hundred percent that you remember smelling alcohol?” and he replied “Yes.”
Thomas then testified that he called the STEP deputy, while walking back to his car. He stated that when he called the STEP unit, he had not written the citation out and he wrote the citation when the STEP deputy was in route. The deputy testified that it took the STEP unit about 10 to 15 minutes to arrive. He then testified that about 35 minutes elapsed from the time of the stop until appellant was arrested by the STEP deputy.
The trial court
denied the defendant’s second motion to suppress, finding that the defendant
was not illegally detained because the DUI investigator arrived prior to the
issuance of the traffic citation and the time period to issue the citation was
reasonable. This Court agrees. A person may not be detained for a traffic
violation for any longer than is necessary to issue a citation. Summerall v.
State, 777 So. 2d 1060 (
that there are no articulable facts which would indicate that a continued detention
was warranted, and that based on the credibility problems with the deputy’s
testimony, the record does not contain substantial competent evidence necessary
to allow an investigatory detention of the appellant. However, the trial court is in the best
position to weigh credibility and its decisions on credibility should not be
lightly overturned. Hurst v. State, 941 So. 2d 1252 (
IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED that the ruling of the trial court be AFFIRMED.
DONE AND ORDERED
in Chambers at New Port Richey,
Primary Appellate Judge
Daniel D. Diskey
Copies furnished to:
Curtis Crider, Esq.
Neil P. O’Brien, Esq. A.S.A.
 “Flashing red (stop signal). –When a red lens is illuminated with rapid intermittent flashes, driers of vehicles shall stop at a clearly marked stop line, ….”.