Criminal Court: CRIMINAL LAW-DUI-Checkpoint- clear purpose of lighting
and warning on the roadway, in advance of the stop, is to reduce threat of
startling the driver, and alert motorists that they are approaching something
legitimate; it is not to give them advance notice so that they may turn and
avoid the checkpoint. Order of
Suppression reversed. State v.
Bradley, 0606806CFAWS, State v. Smith, 0606804CFAWS, State
v. Miller, 0606805CFAWS, (
IN THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE SIXTH JUDICIAL CIRCUIT
THE STATE OF
v. Appeal No: 0606806CFAWS
Lower No: CTC069976XANTWS
Appeal No.: 0606804CFAWS
v. Lower No.: CTC06519563XTWS
JAMES RUSSELL SMITH
Appeal No.: 0606805CFAWS
v. Lower No: 06519355XTWS
JOHN JAY MILLER,
Neil P. O’Brien, Esq., A.S.A
Robert W. Attridge, Jr., Esq.
ORDER AND OPINION
On March 17, 2006,
the appellee’s were arrested and issued a Uniform Traffic Citation for Driving Under the Influence. Each entered a written plea of not
guilty and filed a
Motion to Suppress contesting the stop on grounds that the Traffic Stop Checkpoint
lacked the constitutional safeguards and thus contrary to the U.S. Constitution
and the Constitution of the State of
At the hearing, Lt.
Scott Baker testified that on March 17, 2006, he was involved with a
comprehensive safety checkpoint on Massachusetts Avenue, in front of the Kash N’
Karry. He testified that there were about 11 or 12 officers all together, and
all of the officers wore their duty uniforms and traffic safety vests. Baker
stated that there were several patrol vehicles at the scene, with emergency
lights on. Baker testified that he drafted the written plan outlining the
duties and responsibilities of personnel working the safety checkpoint, both
the Comprehensive Safety Checkpoint and the Comprehensive Traffic Checkpoint
Operational Plan. Baker testified that the written plan establishes guidelines
and criteria to be used in the checkpoint. He testified that part of the checkpoint
criteria was the use
of a warning device, and that the department uses a lighted signboard that
indicates the checkpoint is on the roadway. He further testified that there was a
lighted sign at the checkpoint on March 17, just west of
Baker went on to testify that the department sent out a press release to all of the local newspapers prior to the event; St. Pete Times, Tampa Tribune, and The Suncoast News. He testified that he sent out the press release three days in advance. Baker went on to state that only the Suncoast News printed something about the checkpoint.
Baker testified that the lighted sign stated “TRAFFIC SAFETY CHECKPOINT-PREPARE TO STOP.” The officer acknowledged that the sign did not indicate the motorist could turn around or take an alternate route. The officer stated that he talked to four people that night, and one of the four said he was a little bit confused by the checkpoint. Baker said he did not go back and try to make changes, because he said he didn’t’ think there was any confusion and it was “pretty defined on the roadway.”
At the conclusion of the hearing, the court found that the safety of the motorists going through the traffic stop was not in question. The court also found that the degree of the intrusion upon motorists and the length of detention appeared to be slight. However, the court went on to find that there was no meaningful notice prior to the traffic stop. The court stated “I don’t think that the circumstances in this particular traffic stop gave those involved the sufficient ability to choose the alternative to which they are legally entitled; therefore, the motion to suppress is granted.” This was error.
Court is mindful that the law is somewhat vague. However, the clear purpose of
the lighting and warning on the roadway, in advance of the stop, is to reduce
the threat of startling the driver, State v. Jones, 483 So.
2d 433 (
ORDERED AND ADJUDGED that the order of the trial court is REVERSED.
DONE AND ORDERED in Chambers at New
Primary Appellate Judge
Daniel D. Diskey
Copies furnished to:
Neil P. O’Brien, Esq. A.S.A.
Robert W. Attridge, Jr. Esq.