Florida Third District Court of Appeal – Criminal Headnotes – January 17, 2018

  • Jan 17 2018


Direct appeal from conviction and sentencing for DUI manslaughter, DUI causing serious bodily injury (two counts), and DUI with person or property damage (two counts).

At trial, the defendant moved to suppress the results of a blood draw taken at a trauma center without a warrant, while he was in a medically-induced coma. The trial court denied the motion, finding that the state had established probable cause and exigent circumstances justifying taking the blood draw without a warrant. A jury returned guilty verdicts on three of the five counts, but found the defendant guilty of the lesser included offense of simple DUI on the other two.

On appeal, the defendant argued that the nonconsensual blood draw violated his Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure, and that the convictions on the lesser included offenses violated the prohibition on double jeopardy. The state conceded the latter argument.

The appeals court rejected the Fourth Amendment argument, citing Schmerber v. California, 384 U.S. 757 (1966), holding that where exigent circumstances threatened the destruction of evidence, the requirement to obtain a warrant for the blood draw could be excused.

Here, the crash occurred in the early hours of a Sunday morning, the highway patrol trooper who ordered the blood draw ninety minutes later had smelled alcohol on the defendant, the defendant was in a medically-induced coma and could not consent, and the state presented evidence that it would have taken several more hours to secure a warrant, during which time the defendant’s system would have metabolized the alcohol.

Affirmed in part and reversed in part.


Direct appeal from conviction and sentencing for possession of marijuana, oxycodone, and drug paraphernalia. The defendant pleaded guilty after the trial court denied his motion to suppress physical evidence found in his backpack in the course of an arrest for reckless driving and driving an unregistered vehicle (an off-road dirt bike).

The defendant was already handcuffed and sitting on the ground when the arresting officer opened his backpack to retrieve his identification and proof of ownership of the dirt bike. The defendant instructed the officer to look in the front pocket of the backpack, and specifically told him not to look in the main compartment. While retrieving the paperwork from the front pocket, the officer smelled marijuana and proceeded to search the main compartment. The trial court found that there was probable cause for the stop, and the search was valid, incident to the arrest.

Citing Arizona v. Gant, 556 U.S. 332 (2009), the appeals court rejected each of the state’s arguments, finding that the backpack was not within the defendant’s reach at the time of the search and that nothing contained in the backpack could have been relevant to the crime for which the defendant had been arrested. The court declined to reach the question whether the defendant had consented to the search, as the trial court had made no findings on this issue.

Reversed and remanded for further proceedings.

Posted in: Criminal, Third DCA