County Criminal Court: CRIMINAL LAW --- Search and Seizure – Stop – Trial court correctly found that caller was a citizen informer where caller identified himself as “Steve”, told them where he was calling from, and left a phone number. Judgment and sentence affirmed. Sprentall v. State, No. CRC 06-90 APANO (Fla. 6th Cir.App.Ct. January 4, 2008).

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

ROBERT SPRENTALL

 

            Appellant,        

                                   

v.                                                                     Appeal No. CRC 06-90 APANO

                                                                        UCN522006AP000090XXXCR

 

STATE OF FLORIDA

 

            Appellee.

___________________________/

 

 

Opinion filed ________________.

 

Appeal from a judgment and sentence

imposed by the Pinellas County Court

County Court Judge John D. Carballo

 

Lynda Barack, Esquire

Attorney for appellant

 

C. Marie King, Esquire

Assistant State Attorney

 

ORDER AND OPINION

 

            THIS MATTER is before the Court on the defendant, Robert Sprentall’s, appeal from a judgment and sentence imposed by the Pinellas County Court. After reviewing the briefs and record, this Court affirms the judgment and sentence.

            The defendant entered a no contest plea to a DUI charge, reserving the right to

 

appeal the denial of his motion to suppress. He claims the initial stop was improper.

A trial court’s determination of reasonable suspicion to conduct an investigatory stop or detention is subject to de novo review. Ornelas v. United States, 517 U.S. 690 (1996); DeLeon v. State, 700 So.2d 718 (Fla. 2d DCA 1997). “Appellate review of a motion to suppress involves questions of both law and fact and an appellate court must make a de novo review of the trial court’s application of the law to the facts.” Rosenquist v. State, 769 So.2d 1051 (Fla. 2d DCA 2000). “A reviewing court must accept the trial court’s findings of fact in an order on a motion to suppress, so long as those findings are supported by the record. However, a suppression order that turns on an issue of law is reviewed by a de novo standard of review.” Underwood v. State, 801 So.2d 200 (Fla. 4th DCA 2001).

The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office received a call from an individual at a particular bar. The individual gave his name as “Steve” and his telephone number. He complained that an individual (the defendant) was impaired[1], and also “psychotic.” The caller informed the Sheriff’s Office that the defendant was driving a silver Land Rover and had driven through the parking lot several times. When a deputy arrived at the bar, he was met by a group of people who pointed in a particular direction and said: “He went that way.” The deputy then headed in the indicated direction, sighted the suspect vehicle, and stopped the defendant. He was ultimately arrested for DUI.

The defendant claims that he should not have been stopped because the deputy stopped him solely on the basis of information received from an anonymous source without corroborating the information. The trial court found that the deputy did not see the defendant violate any traffic laws or have justification to stop him other than from the information received from the caller.

The issue in this case, as framed by the defendant in his brief, is which legal category the caller should be placed. If the caller is considered an anonymous tipster, then the defendant is correct; the stop would have been improper. If, however, the caller is classified as a citizen informant, then the stop would be proper.

            If a stop is made based upon an anonymous source, then law enforcement must corroborate the information prior to making the stop. In other words, law enforcement must observe some independent suspicious activity before they may make a valid stop. See e.g., State v. Maynard, 783 So.2d 226 (Fla.2001); J.L. v. State, 727 So.2d 204 (Fla. 1998); State v. Evans, 692 So.2d 216 (Fla. 4th DCA 1997). If, however, the stop is based upon information received from a citizen informant, then law enforcement may rely upon that information without corroborating it; the information is presumed to be reliable and law enforcement may immediately act upon it.

            The trial court correctly found that the caller is a citizen informant. To be considered a citizen informant, the caller must be an identified person or an identifiable person. See Evans at 218. In the case at bar the caller gave his name and telephone number. The Sheriff’s Office was, in fact, able to contact him. He was, therefore, identifiable and not just an anonymous tipster.

            This Court, in the case of Breeden v. State, No. CRC 03-91 APANO (Fla. 6th Cir.App.Ct. August 3, 2004), ruled that a caller who gave law enforcement the address from where he was calling and the fact that he was an employee at the restaurant (from where he was calling), was sufficient to make him sufficiently identifiable to classify him as a citizen informer. In the case at bar, law enforcement had even greater means to identify the caller.  

            Because of the caller’s status as a citizen informer, the deputy did not need to corroborate the information before he made the stop. The deputy could rely upon the information that the defendant was driving and appeared impaired. Such information was sufficient to justify the stop. The trial court was correct to deny the defendant’s motion to suppress. Accordingly, this Court affirms the judgment and sentence.

            IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED that the judgment and sentence is affirmed.

            ORDERED at Clearwater, Florida this _____ day of January, 2008.

 

 

                                                                        ______________________________

                                                                                          Linda R. Allan

                                                                                       Circuit Court Judge

 

 

 

                                                                        _______________________________

                                                                                          R. Timothy Peters 

                                                                                         Circuit Court Judge

 

 

 

                                                                        ________________________________

                                                                                           John A. Schaefer

                                                                                          Circuit Court Judge

cc:        Lynda Barack, Esquire

 

            Office of the State Attorney

 

            Honorable John D. Carballo



[1] The deputy testified that the radio report said the defendant was “signal one”, which apparently the deputy knew meant the caller had described behavior indicating impairment.