County Criminal Court: CRIMINAL LAW – Search and Seizure – Stop – Trial court misinterpreted Whren case where it found officer’s subjective intent in stopping defendant was relevant. Defendant’s act of running red light sufficient to justify stop. Order granting defendant’s motion to suppress reversed. State v. Phillips, No. CRC 06-19 APANO, (Fla. 6th Cir. App. Ct. March 7, 2007).

 

 

 

NOT FINAL UNTIL TIME EXPIRES FOR REHEARING

AND, IF FILED, DETERMINED

 

 

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 06-19 APANO

UCN522006AP000019XXXXCR

 

DONALD LEE PHILLIPS, JR.

 

            Appellee.

________________________________/

 

Opinion filed __________________.

 

Appeal from a decision of the

Pinellas County Court

Honorable John Carballo

County Court Judge

 

John S. Thacker, Esquire

Assistant State Attorney

 

J. Kevin Hayslett, Esquire

Attorney for appellee

 

 

ORDER AND OPINION

 

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 suppress. After reviewing the briefs and record, this Court reverses the decision of the trial court.

            A police officer observed the defendant roll through a red light without coming to a complete stop and make a right turn in violation of a “no right on red” sign. The officer conducted a traffic stop of the defendant. As a result of evidence obtained following the stop, the defendant was ultimately arrested for DUI. At the hearing on the defendant’s motion to suppress, there was evidence that the “no right on red” sign was illegally placed; and consequently no tickets were being enforced for any alleged violations of that sign. The trial court, however, specifically found that the defendant did not come to a complete stop at the traffic light. But the trial court refused to justify the stop because of that traffic violation. In granting the defendant’s motion to suppress, the trial court reasoned that the officer testified he stopped the defendant for violating the “no right on red” sign; therefore based upon Whren v. United States, 517 U.S. 806 (1996), only the reason stated by the officer making the stop is relevant. The State claims this was error, and has appealed the decision of the trial court.

            This Court agrees with the State that the stop was proper. The trial court misinterpreted Whren.            It is well established that as long as the facts show that there was a legitimate reason for law enforcement to stop an individual for a traffic violation, the individual officer’s subjective reason for actually making the stop is irrelevant. See e.g., State, Dept. of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles v. Jones, 935 So.2d 532 (Fla. 3d DCA 2006); State, Dept. of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles v. Utley, 930 So.2d 698 (Fla. 1st DCA 2006); State v. Perez-Garcia, 917 So.2d 894 (Fla. 3d DCA 2005).

In the case at bar, the failure of the defendant to come to a complete stop at the red light was a traffic violation; and clearly provided justification for the officer to make the stop. Therefore, the motion to suppress should have been denied.

IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED that the order granting the defendant’s motion to suppress is reversed, and this matter is remanded to the trial court for action consistent with this Order and Opinion.

            ORDERED at Clearwater, Florida this _____ day of March, 2007.

 

 

 

 

                                                                        _______________________

                                                                                   Linda R. Allan

                                                                               Circuit Court Judge

 

 

 

 

                                                                        _________________________
                                                                                    R. Timothy Peters

                                                                                   Circuit Court Judge

 

 

 

                                                                        ___________________________

                                                                                    John A. Schaefer

                                                                                  Circuit Court Judge

 

cc:        Office of the State Attorney

 

            J. Kevin Hayslett, Esquire

 

            Honorable John Carballo