NOT FINAL UNTIL TIME EXPIRES FOR REHEARING
AND, IF FILED, DETERMINED
IN THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE SIXTH JUDICIAL CIRCUIT
OF THE STATE OF
Appeal No. CRC 07-00052APANO UCN522006CT125721XXXXXX
KYLE WILLIAMS SCHMOTZER
Appeal No. CRC 07-00053APANO UCN522007AP00053XXXXCR
MARCUS CHRISTOPHER CARPENTER
Opinion filed June ___ 2008.
Appeals from an Order Granting
Motion to Suppress
Entered by the
County Judge Edwin B. Jagger
James Peterson, Esquire
Attorney for Appellant
Jennifer M. D’Angelo, Esquire
Attorney for Appellee,
Kyle Williams Schmotzer
Rick Silverman, Esquire
Attorney for Appellee,
Marcus Christopher Carpenter
ORDER AND OPINION
MATTER is before the Court on Appellant, State of
Factual Background and Trial Court Proceedings
August 21, 2006, at approximately 1:00 a.m., Deputy Charles Campbell of the
Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office was on patrol in the area of the
These cases were consolidated for trial. On May 29, 2007, the morning a jury trial was scheduled to begin, the Defendants made pre-trial motions to suppress. These motions to suppress were not in writing and the exact substance of those initial motions is not clear from the record nor is it clear exactly when the motions were articulated. The record reflects no advance notice that the motions would be made or heard, the formalities required of all motions to suppress are not set out in the record and the record further reflects no initial determination by the trial court that the motions were legally sufficient. The record transcript in this case contains only the evidentiary hearing and arguments made on the motions. At the conclusion of those arguments and after a recess the trial court granted the motions to suppress and ordered that the statements and admissions made by the Defendants at the roadside traffic stop be excluded from evidence at trial. The trial was continued and the trial court signed a written order granting the motions on June 8, 2007. The State filed these appeals from those orders.
Standard of Review
review of a trial court's ruling on a motion to suppress evidence involves a
mixed question of law and fact. We accord a presumption of correctness with
regard to the trial court's determination of facts where the trial court's
factual findings are supported by competent, substantial evidence. However, we
review the trial court's application of the law to those facts de novo. Ornelas
Miranda & Traffic Stops
temporarily detained in ordinary traffic stops are not “in custody” for
purposes of Miranda. Berkemer v. McCarty, 468
In determining whether Miranda warnings are required the question in an ordinary traffic stop is not whether a suspect reasonably feels free to leave. “Certainly few motorists would feel free either to disobey a directive to pull over or to leave the scene of a traffic stop without being told they might do so.” Berkemer, 468 U.S. 420 at 436, 104 S.Ct. 3138 at 3148. The question is whether a traffic stop exerts upon a detained person pressures that sufficiently impair his or her free exercise of the privilege against self-incrimination to require that he or she be warned of their constitutional rights. In other words, the relevant inquiry is how a reasonable person in the suspect's position would understand the situation. Poster, 892 So.2d at 1072. In addressing this issue, the noncoercive aspects of ordinary traffic stops prompted the United States Supreme Court to hold that persons temporarily detained pursuant to such stops are not “in custody” for the purposes of Miranda. Berkemer, 468 U.S. 420 at 440, 104 S.Ct. 3138 at 3150. The Court explained:
Two features of an
ordinary traffic stop mitigate the danger that a person questioned will be
induced “to speak where he would not otherwise do so freely,” Miranda v.
Second, circumstances associated with the typical traffic stop are not such that the motorist feels completely at the mercy of the police. To be sure, the aura of authority surrounding an armed, uniformed officer and the knowledge that the officer has some discretion in deciding whether to issue a citation, in combination, exert some pressure on the detainee to respond to questions. But other aspects of the situation substantially offset these forces. Perhaps most importantly, the typical traffic stop is public, at least to some degree. Passersby, on foot or in other cars, witness the interaction of officer and motorist. This exposure to public view both reduces the ability of an unscrupulous policeman to use illegitimate means to elicit self-incriminating statements and diminishes the motorist's fear that, if he does not cooperate, he will be subjected to abuse. The fact that the detained motorist typically is confronted by only one or at most two policemen further mutes his sense of vulnerability. In short, the atmosphere surrounding an ordinary traffic stop is substantially less “police dominated” than that surrounding the kinds of interrogation at issue in Miranda itself, see 384 U.S., at 445, 491-498, 86 S.Ct., at 1612, 1636-1640, and in the subsequent cases in which we have applied Miranda.
Berkemer, 468 U.S. 420 at 437, 104 S.Ct. 3138 at 3148. This rule is
subject to the qualification that “[i]f a motorist who has been detained
pursuant to a traffic stop thereafter is subjected to treatment that renders
him ‘in custody’ for practical purposes, he will be entitled to the full
panoply of protections prescribed by Miranda.” Berkemer, 468 U.S. 420 at 440, 104 S.Ct. 3138 at 3150; State v. Whelan, 728 So.2d
807 (Fla. 3rd DCA 1999). “It
is settled that the safeguards prescribed by Miranda become applicable as soon as a suspect's freedom of action
is curtailed to a “degree associated with formal arrest.” California v. Beheler, 463
The Present Case
In the present case the record reflects several issues or facts that are not in dispute. The roadside traffic stop was lawful. The deputy’s observations reasonably led him to believe the Appellees were racing on a public highway. The record reflects there was just one deputy involved in the traffic stop of the two Appellees. For the most part the Appellees remained in their own vehicles. They were never put in handcuffs, placed in a law enforcement vehicle or otherwise restrained. They were not searched. Their vehicles were not searched. They were not commanded by the deputy to do anything other than possibly to step out of their cars to sign the citations. The deputy asked Appellees a limited number of questions and the traffic stops were not prolonged given the circumstances. The Appellees were not arrested. Instead they were given citations and left the scene.
The defense repeated argument that this situation was “custodial” or amounted to an arrest is simply not supported by the facts of record. The Appellees were temporarily detained in an ordinary roadside traffic stop, not subjected to custodial interrogation at a police station. The fact that the traffic stop was in response to a criminal traffic offense rather than a traffic infraction does not transform the stop into an arrest. The fact that the lone deputy involved talked with Appellees about the reason for the stop, the nature of the alleged offense and asked questions about his observations of Appellees’ alleged racing does not transform this stop into an arrest. Any assertion that the Appellees could not have felt reasonably free to leave is beside the point and does not transform this stop into an arrest. The Appellees freedom of action was never curtailed to a “degree associated with formal arrest.” No reasonable person in the Appellees’ position would have believed they were under arrest. The facts of record do not establish that any arrest occurred nor did any restraint to a “degree associated with formal arrest” occur in the present case. Miranda warnings were not required, and any statements made in response to the deputy's questions at roadside are admissible.
Procedural Requirements for Motions to Suppress
Court would be remiss if it did not review several fundamental requirements
related to suppression motions. Motions
to Suppress must be in writing.
In the present case several of these requirements were ignored. The motions to suppress were not in writing, the formalities required of all motions to suppress are not set out in the record, the record reflects no advance notice that the motions would be made or heard, and the record further reflects no initial determination by the trial court that the motions were legally sufficient. It is not clear from the record when the motions were articulated, exactly what the substance of those initial motions were or the extent of any preparation made by involved counsel for the hearing which was hastily conducted on the morning the trial was to begin. Only one witness testified at the short evidentiary hearing and the arguments presented by counsel to the trial court were simple and brief with limited citations to authority. The Defense made reference to only one specific appellate case and the State read from or referenced citations contained in a legal manual. None of this presents an issue in this appeal because no one objected. See Sarmiento v. State, 371 So2d 1047 (Fla. 3rd DCA 1979). However, while intending no disrespect, the parties are reminded of their responsibility to follow the rules of court. Without further elaboration, this Court will only state that those procedural rules exist for good reason and this case is an example of what can happen when they are disregarded.
This court concludes that the order of the trial court granting Appellees’ Motions to Suppress should be reversed.
IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED that the order of the trial court granting Appellees’ Motions to Suppress is reversed and these cases are remanded to the trial court for further action.
Michael F. Andrews Circuit Court Judge
Raymond O. Gross
Circuit Court Judge
R. Timothy Peters
Circuit Court Judge
cc: Honorable Edwin B. Jagger
Office of the State Attorney
Jennifer M. D’Angelo, Esquire
Rick Silverman, Esquire