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.  Renz v. State,  No. 064882CFAES, (Fla. 6th Cir. App. Ct. April 12, 2007). .

 

 

 

IN THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE SIXTH JUDICIAL CIRCUIT

OF THE STATE OF FLORIDA, IN AND FOR PASCO COUNTY

APPELLATE DIVISION

 

 

SANDIE LEE RENZ,        

                        Appellant,

v.

 

STATE OF FLORIDA,                                               Case No: 064822CFAES

                        Appellee.                                              Lower No: 06519557XTES    

________________________/

 

Appeal from Pasco County Court

 

County Judge William Sestak

 

A.R. Mander, III,  Esq.  

for Appellant

 

Justin B. Petredis, Esq. A.S.A. 

for Appellee

 

ORDER AND OPINION

 

On March 1, 2006, appellant was charged with Driving Under the Influence. Thereafter, appellant filed a Motion to Suppress.  After hearing, the trial court denied appellant’s motion.  This Court affirms the decision of the trial court

At the hearing, Deputy Grudzinski testified that there was a call for investigation of a disturbance that was happening on County Road 54 and the entrance to an apartment complex.  Upon his arrival, he first spoke with the complainant, Hector Silva. Grudzinski explained that Silva told him that while he was on CR 54, a white pickup truck was in front of him driving real slow, then suddenly stopped. He had to slam on his brakes so he would not hit the vehicle. Both Silva and the driver waited a few seconds but the truck would not move, so Silva tried to get around it. Silva told him the driver of the truck was screaming and yelling at him. When he went around the truck, he pulled into the apartment complex, where he lives, and the truck continued to follow him, with the driver screaming at him. After hearing what happened, the deputy then went to talk to the driver of the pickup truck.

Grudzinski testified that he found the pickup truck located at the entrance to the complex, with half of the truck sticking out onto County Road 54.  He explained that he then  stopped behind her and put his overhead lights on for safety. Grudzinski stated that the vehicle was running, but the brake lights were not on because the vehicle was in park, with appellant sitting in the driver’s seat.  There was no one else in the vehicle. Grudzinski testified that when he made contact with the appellant, she  kept yelling out the window for him to “go talk to those Mexicans because they probably didn’t have a driver’s license.”    At that time, the deputy asked appellant for her driver’s license and registration, stating that he needed some kind of identification to continue his investigation on the disturbance that was  called in. Grudzinski testified that she was fumbling in her pocketbook and all she kept yelling was that he should deal with the Mexicans that probably didn’t have a driver’s license. He also testified that while he was talking to her, he noticed she was slurring her words and he could smell a strong odor of alcohol coming from the pickup truck. He then said “and her.” The state then asked, “[w]as it coming from the pickup truck or from her” and he replied “[f]rom her.” At that point, he contacted Deputy Shaw of the STEP unit because he believed  that she was intoxicated. When asked what that was based on, he testified “[w]ell, the fumbling for the ID, driver’s license.  She couldn’t find it. She kept dropping the pocketbook.  She also was slurring her words.  She just kept going back and forth yelling for me to deal with the bad drivers, the Mexican bad drivers, and that she was not afraid of them. And also the odor of alcohol.”    

Grudzinski testified that at that point, he continued his investigation to get the information from the complainant and from the appellant. The deputy testified that it took about ten to fifteen minutes for the STEP unit to arrive.  He explained that during that time, he was taking information down, calling for a case number, talking to the complainant, and talking to the appellant.  During his discussion with the appellant, she stated that she had to go to the bathroom. Grudzinski testified that he told her she could not leave the area until Deputy Shaw arrived.  He testified that the appellant then squatted down in the road and urinated right next to his cruiser.  Deputy Shaw arrived at about 11:41 P.M, approximately forty minutes after the ‘stop.’ At that time, Grudzinski turned over the DUI investigation to Shaw. During Shaw’s investigation Grudzinski continued to talk to the complainant and continued on with his own investigation. He testified he was not done with his investigation of the original call when Deputy Shaw arrived.

The trial court found, based on the evidence, that a period of approximately forty one minutes elapsed from Deputy Grudzinski’s initial encounter and Deputy Shaw’s arrival. However, the trial court did not believe that to be an inordinate amount of time since Deputy Grudzinski was initially dispatched to a disturbance, and was conducting a disorderly conduct investigation regarding the defendant.  

On appeal, appellant contends that Deputy Grudzinski’s detention of the appellant, while waiting for the arrival of the STEP unit deputy to conduct the investigation, transformed the Terry-type encounter into a seizure without probable cause.  This Court disagrees.

Here, we are not concerned with a stop.  The truck was already stopped when Deputy Grudzinski encountered it. While he may have arrived to investigate nothing more than a disturbance, which does not appear to have amounted to a criminal violation at any point, he did see a traffic obstruction and, in any event, was certainly justified in approaching and talking to the appellant. In the course of talking to the appellant, Deputy Grudzinski observed several things.  The appellant was behind the wheel, the appellant  was the only person in the truck, the engine was running, (although the transmission was in “park”), there was an odor of alcoholic beverage emanating from the appellant,  the appellant’s speech was slurred, the appellant kept yelling for the officer to “go talk to those Mexicans”, the appellant was fumbling in her pocketbook and the truck was partially protruding into County Road 54, which was a traffic infraction.  Those observations not only gave Deputy Grudzinski “…reasonable suspicion justifying the continued detention of” the appellant, but probable cause to arrest the appellant.  In point of fact, allowing the appellant to proceed to drive from the scene after making such observations would undoubtedly amount to serious negligence on the part of the officer.  Having probable cause to arrest the appellant himself, it is clear that Deputy Grudzinski was clearly justified in detaining the appellant for the time it took to get a more highly specialized officer on the scene.  Certainly, the appellant was not free to leave under a ‘reasonable person’ standard and she should not have been free to leave.  It is difficult to imagine why  we should, in effect, punish the agents of the State for going an extra step and calling in a DUI expert to make absolutely sure that the observations of Deputy Grudzinski were sufficient to justify the arrest of the appellant. 

 

Therefore, it is, 

            ORDERED AND ADJUDGED that the decision of the trial court is AFFIRMED. .  

            DONE AND ORDERED in Chambers at New Port Richey, Pasco County, Florida this __ day of March, 2007.  

                                                                                    ________________________

                                                                                     W. Lowell Bray, Circuit Judge

                                                                                    Primary Appellate Judge

 

                                                                                    ____________________

                                                                                    Daniel D. Diskey

                                                                                    Circuit Judge

 

                                                                                    ______________________

                                                                                    Stanley R. Mills

                                                                                    Circuit Judge

 

Copies furnished to:

Judge William Sestak

A.R. Mander, III, Esq. 

Justin B. Petredis, Esq. A.S.A.