County Criminal Court: CRIMINAL LAW --- Evidence --- Exclusionary rule --- Organic law --- Separation of Powers --- Enactment
of § 322.202, Fla. Stat. prohibiting application of the exclusionary rule to
records of DMV, DDL, and DHSMV, did not violate organic law and did not violate
doctrine of separation of powers. Order affirmed. Small v. State, No. CRC 07-00071APANO (
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 07-00071APANO UCN 522006CTI69964XXXXXX
Opinion filed _____________________.
Appeal from an Order Denying
Motion to Declare Statue Unconstitutional and
Motion to Suppress and Dismiss
entered by the Pinellas County Court
County Judge William H. Overton
Robert M. Tager, Esquire
Attorney for Appellant
Carolyne Moomaw, Esquire
Attorney for Appellee
ORDER AND OPINION
MATTER is before the Court on Appellant, Germaine Small’s appeal from a decision
Factual Background and Trial Court Proceedings
The parties stipulated to the facts as stated in the Appellant’s Motion to Suppress and to Dismiss. Deputy David Swanson of the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office conducted a traffic stop of the Appellant, Germaine Small, on November 11, 2006 because a computer check of the license plate attached to the vehicle he was driving showed the plate belonged to an unknown make, model and color vehicle. Notwithstanding the information received from the computer check, the license plate had been properly transferred to the vehicle on November 5, 2006. After making contact with the Appellant, the deputy discovered that Appellant was driving while his driver’s license was suspended. Appellant was issued a traffic citation for driving while license suspended and was arrested.
Appellant filed a Motion to Suppress
seeking to suppress all information obtained as the result of the traffic stop. Appellant argued that, pursuant to Shadler v. State, 761 So. 2d 279 (
Standard of Review
Our review of a trial court's ruling on a judicial
interpretation of a statute and a determination concerning the
constitutionality of a statute are pure questions of law subject to the de novo
standard of review. State v. Sigler, 967 So2d 835 (
Appellant argues that Florida Statute 322.202 is an unconstitutional
attempt by the
The parties agree that this case is generally controlled by
the rule of law enunciated in Arizona v. Evans, 514 U.S. 1, 115 S.Ct.
1185, 131 L.Ed.2d 34 (1995), and State v. White, 660 So.2d 664
(Fla.1995). Pursuant to Evans, if an error leading to an unlawful arrest
and a subsequent search and seizure was made by court personnel, then the
exclusionary rule will not apply and the evidence obtained can be used against
the accused. See Evans, 514
Shadler, 761 So2d at 281. In Shadler the court held that if an error in record keeping made by the Division of Driver Licenses leads to an unlawful arrest and a subsequent search and seizure, then the seized evidence must be suppressed under the exclusionary rule.
Thereafter, § 322.202 Fla. Stat. (2002) was enacted by the Florida Legislature. That statute provides:
(1) The Legislature finds that the Division of Driver Licenses and the Division of Motor Vehicles of the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles are not law enforcement agencies. The Legislature also finds that the divisions are not adjuncts of any law enforcement agency in that employees have no stake in particular prosecutions. The Legislature further finds that errors in records maintained by the divisions are not within the collective knowledge of any law enforcement agency. The Legislature also finds that the missions of the Division of Driver Licenses, the Division of Motor Vehicles, and the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles provide a sufficient incentive to maintain records in a current and correct fashion.
(3) The Legislature finds that the application of the exclusionary rule to cases where a law enforcement officer effects an arrest based on objectively reasonable reliance on information obtained from the divisions is repugnant to the purposes of the exclusionary rule and contrary to the decisions of the United States Supreme Court in Arizona v. Evans, 514 U.S. 1 (1995) and United States v. Leon, 468 U.S. 897 (1984).
(4) In any case where a law enforcement officer effects an arrest based on objectively reasonable reliance on information obtained from the divisions, evidence found pursuant to such an arrest shall not be suppressed by application of the exclusionary rule on the grounds that the arrest is subsequently determined to be unlawful due to erroneous information obtained from the divisions.
difficulty with the Appellant’s argument is that a statute may expressly or by
implication supersede the common law, and so become the controlling law within
its proper sphere of operation, when no organic provision or principle is
thereby violated. Broward v. Broward, 117 So. 691 (
“Organic law” is the body of laws, as in a constitution, that define
and establish a government. Black's Law
Dictionary (8th ed. 2004); see also State
v. Johns, 109 So. 220, 231 (
Florida Supreme Court has recognized that the judiciary has an obligation,
pursuant to the separation of powers contained in Article II, Section 3 of the
Florida Constitution, to construe statutory pronouncements in
strict accord with the legislative will, so long as the statute
does not violate organic principles of constitutional law.
The provision or principle of organic law addressed by Florida
Statute § 322.202 is the exclusionary rule established by
the decisions of the United States Supreme Court in Arizona v. Evans, 514 U.S. 1 (1995) and United States v. Leon, 468 U.S. 897
(1984). The statute does not
conflict with those decisions. The
Constitution of the State of
Searches and seizures.--The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures, and against the unreasonable interception of private communications by any means, shall not be violated. No warrant shall be issued except upon probable cause, supported by affidavit, particularly describing the place or places to be searched, the person or persons, thing or things to be seized, the communication to be intercepted, and the nature of evidence to be obtained. This right shall be construed in conformity with the 4th Amendment to the United States Constitution, as interpreted by the United States Supreme Court. Articles or information obtained in violation of this right shall not be admissible in evidence if such articles or information would be inadmissible under decisions of the United States Supreme Court construing the 4th Amendment to the United States Constitution.
Florida Statute § 322.202
does not conflict with this
The Appellant argues that Florida
Statute § 322.202 is unconstitutional because it violates of
Article II, Section 3 of the Florida Constitution, the Separation of Powers
Clause. The difficulty with this
argument is that Florida Statute § 322.202 was not
created to and did not overturn a specific final judgment of a case that had
been previously decided. Such final
judgments are solely in the province of the courts. Bush v.
Schaivo, 885 So2d 321 (
This court concludes that the orders of the trial court denying Appellant’s Motion to Declare Statue Unconstitutional and Motion to Suppress should be affirmed.
IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED that the orders of the trial court denying Appellant’s Motion to Declare Statue Unconstitutional and Motion to Suppress are affirmed.
Michael F. Andrews Circuit Court Judge
Raymond O. Gross
Circuit Court Judge
R. Timothy Peters
Circuit Court Judge
cc: Honorable William H. Overton
Robert M. Tager, Esquire
Office of the State Attorney