Florida Supreme Court – Criminal Headnotes – September 20, 2017

  • Sep 21 2017

GREGORY PRESLEY V. STATE OF FLORIDA – DETENTION OF PASSENGER AT TRAFFIC STOP; MOTION TO SUPPRESS; REVIEW OF CONFLICT BETWEEN DISTRICT APPEALS COURTS

Review of decision in Presley v. State, 204 So. 3d 84 (Fla. 1st DCA 2016), for direct conflict with Wilson v. State, 734 So. 2d 1107 (Fla. 4th DCA 1999).

The 1st District appeals court affirmed the revocation of the defendant’s probation and sentencing for multiple drug offenses, holding the trial court had not erred in denying his motion to suppress statements he had made and contraband seized in the course of a traffic stop.

The defendant was one of two passengers. The other passenger had attempted to flee, and continued to act belligerently after he was restrained. The defendant and the driver stood beside the car, conversing with an officer who had arrived to provide backup. That officer told the defendant “you can’t go anywhere at the moment because you’re part of this stop.” The defendant volunteered that he had been drinking. A background check disclosed that he was on drug offender probation with the special condition that he not consume alcohol. During a search incident to the arrest for violation of probation, the officer recovered a plastic bag containing cocaine from the defendant’s pocket.

In rejecting the defendant’s argument that he had been illegally detained, the appeals court aligned itself with the recent decision of the 5th District in Aguiar v. State, 199 So. 3d 920 (Fla. 5th DCA 2016), and certified the conflict with Wilson, in which the 4th District had held an officer could not detain a passenger without “an articulable founded suspicion of criminal activity or a reasonable belief that the passenger poses a threat to the safety of the officer, himself, or others.”

The Supreme Court undertook a review of a series of decisions of the United States Supreme Court dating back to 1977, including Brendlin v. California, 551 U.S. 249 (2007), Arizona v. Johnson, 555 U.S. 323 (2009), each holding an officer may detain all occupants of a vehicle pending inquiry into a vehicular violation, if the underlying stop is itself lawful.

More recently, in Rodriguez v. United States, 135 S. Ct. 1609 (2015), the Supreme Court ruled an officer may not extend the period of detention beyond what is reasonable to accomplish the purposes of the stop itself. In the present case, the Court said, the duration of the stop was reasonable in light of the need to deal with the uncooperative passenger to secure the officers’ safety.

The Court disapproved Wilson and any later decisions that had relied on its reasoning.

Justice Pariente, concurring separately, would not have used this particular case to announce a “bright-line rule” applicable to “routine” traffic stops, as she said the circumstances here were not “routine.”

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