Florida Supreme Court – Criminal Headnotes – September 28, 2017

  • Sep 28 2017

STATE OF FLORIDA V. DARYL MILLER – REVIEW OF DIRECT CONFLICT AMONG DISTRICT APPEALS COURTS; THIRD-DEGREE FELONY DRIVING WHILE REVOKED; ELEMENTS OF OFFENSE

Review of decision in State v. Miller, 193 So. 3d 1001 (Fla. 3d DCA 2016), for direct conflict with Carroll v. State, 761 So. 2d 417 (Fla. 2d DCA 2000); Newton v. State, 898 So. 2d 1133 (Fla. 4th DCA 2005); and State v. Bletcher, 763 So. 2d 1277 (Fla. 5th DCA 2000).

The trial court had granted the defendant’s motion to dismiss a third-degree felony charge under section 322.34(5), Florida Statutes (2017), for driving while his license was revoked as a “habitual offender” under section 322.264, Florida Statutes (2017), and reduced the charge to driving without a valid license. The defendant had never had a Florida license.

The 3rd District appeals court affirmed, aligning with Crain v. State, 79 So. 3d 118, 122 (Fla. 1st DCA 2012), and noting the conflict with the other three district appeals courts.

The state argued the phrase “driver license” in the statute should be construed as interchangeable with “driving privilege.” The appeals court rejected that argument, finding section 322.34(5) unambiguous. Having had a driver license that was revoked under the “habitual offender” statute is an element of the third-degree felony, the court said.

The Supreme Court agreed, approving Miller and Crain, and disapproving Carroll, Newton, and Bletcher to the extent they are inconsistent.

Justice Canady, joined by Justice Polston, dissented, saying the Court should have dismissed the case as moot after the state had agreed not to prosecute the defendant on the felony charge, rendering the present opinion advisory only.

KUMAR V. PATEL – REVIEW OF DIRECT CONFLICT BETWEEN DISTRICT APPEALS COURTS; “STAND YOUR GROUND”; DISMISSAL OF CRIMINAL CHARGES DOES NOT IMPLY IMMUNITY FROM CIVIL LIABILITY

Review of decision in Patel v. Kumar, 196 So. 3d 468 (Fla. 2d DCA 2016), for direct conflict with Professional Roofing & Sales, Inc. v. Flemmings, 138 So. 3d 524 (Fla. 3d DCA 2014).

The plaintiff sought damages in battery and negligence for his injuries suffered in an altercation with the defendant. The defendant moved for summary judgment, asserting immunity under the “stand your ground” statute, section 776.032, Florida statutes (2008). Criminal charges against him arising from the incident had already been dismissed on that ground. The trial court denied the motion, and the defendant petitioned the appeals court for a writ of prohibition. The appeals court granted the writ, certifying the conflict with Flemmings.

In rejecting the appeals court’s conclusion that a determination of immunity from criminal prosecution operated as a determination of immunity from civil prosecution, the Supreme Court said:

(a) as a practical matter some kind of proceeding is necessary to establish a defendant’s claim of immunity from criminal or civil prosecution under the “stand your ground” statute;

(b) the legislature did not specify what procedure that should be; but

(c) nor did the legislature express a clear intent to modify the common law rule that a litigant cannot be collaterally estopped by a determination made in another proceeding to which he or she was not a party;

(d) the statutory mechanism for awarding attorney’s fees and costs clearly contemplated a separate proceeding for determining immunity from civil liability; and

(e) the 2017 amendment to the “stand your ground” statute setting a higher burden of proof on the prosecution in a criminal proceeding to overcome a prima facie claim of self-defense immunity made clear that going forward, at least, two separate determinations are contemplated.

The Court approved the decision in Flemmings and quashed the decisoin in Kumar.

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Posted in: Criminal, FL Supreme Court