995 So.2d 558 (Fla.App. 2 Dist. 2008), 2D07-4515, C.E.L. v. State

Docket Nº2D07-4515.
Citation995 So.2d 558, 33 Fla. L. Weekly D 2120
Opinion JudgeCANADY, Judge.
Party NameC.E.L., Appellant, v. STATE of Florida, Appellee.
AttorneyJames Marion Moorman, Public Defender, and Richard J. Sanders, Assistant Public Defender, Bartow, for Appellant., Bill McCollum, Attorney General, Tallahassee, and Jonathan P. Hurley, Assistant Attorney General, Tampa, for Appellee.
Case DateSeptember 05, 2008
CourtFlorida Court of Appeals, Second District

Page 558

995 So.2d 558 (Fla.App. 2 Dist. 2008)

33 Fla. L. Weekly D 2120

C.E.L., Appellant,

v.

STATE of Florida, Appellee.

No. 2D07-4515.

Florida Court of Appeal, Second District.

September 5, 2008

Page 559

James Marion Moorman, Public Defender, and Richard J. Sanders, Assistant Public Defender, Bartow, for Appellant.

Bill McCollum, Attorney General, Tallahassee, and Jonathan P. Hurley, Assistant Attorney General, Tampa, for Appellee.

EN BANC

CANADY, Judge.

In this case, we address a claim that the evidence was insufficient to support an adjudication for the offense of resisting, obstructing, or opposing a law enforcement officer without violence under section 843.02, Florida Statutes (2007). Specifically, we consider whether a person who knowingly fails to heed a police order to stop is guilty of an offense under section 843.02 when the order to stop is justified by Illinois v. Wardlow, 528 U.S. 119, 120 S.Ct. 673, 145 L.Ed.2d 570 (2000). Pursuant to Florida Rule of Appellate Procedure 9.331(a) and (c), the court on its own motion has ordered en banc consideration of this case. For the reasons we explain, we conclude that a violation of section 843.02 was committed in the circumstances at issue here.

I. Background

C.E.L. was charged with obstructing or opposing an officer without violence after he ran from two approaching officers in a high-crime area and then failed to obey the police command to stop.

At the adjudicatory hearing, the testimony of the two officers established that their encounter with C.E.L. occurred when they were on patrol in a high-crime area following up on a complaint regarding drugs and trespassing. According to the officers' testimony, as the officers-wearing vests with " Sheriff" emblazoned on the front-approached him, C.E.L. " immediately turned around and took flight upon seeing" the officers. The testimony further established that the officers then ordered C.E.L. to stop but that C.E.L. disregarded the order and continued to run. Ultimately, C.E.L. was apprehended and it was determined that there was an outstanding warrant for his arrest.

Pursuant to Florida Rule of Juvenile Procedure 8.110(k), C.E.L. moved for a judgment of dismissal on the ground that the evidence presented by the State was insufficient because " running by itself is not enough to support a charge of obstructing or opposing an officer without violence." The circuit court denied the

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motion, found C.E.L. guilty of the offense, and adjudicated him delinquent.

II. Argument on Appeal

C.E.L. contends that the circuit court's denial of his motion for judgment of dismissal was erroneous because the State failed to prove that his flight obstructed the officers in the performance of their legal duties. Based on D.T.B. v. State, 892 So.2d 522 (Fla. 3d DCA 2004), and J.D.H. v. State, 967 So.2d 1128 (Fla. 2d DCA 2007), C.E.L. argues that " the flight cannot be both the basis for the detention and the obstruction itself" and that C.E.L. " did not obstruct any duty [the officers] were performing when he fled because the officers had no grounds to detain [C.E.L.] before he fled."

III. Analysis

In considering C.E.L.'s argument, we (a) acknowledge that it presents an issue of fundamental error, (b) summarize the rules governing our review of orders on motions for judgment of dismissal, (c) discuss the elements of an offense under section 843.02, and (d) examine the relationship between police action justified under Wardlow and violations of section 843.02.

A. An Issue of Fundamental Error

The issue raised on appeal was not specifically presented to the trial court. Ordinarily, this would preclude review of the issue. See § 924.051(1), (3), Fla. Stat. (2007). Here, however, the issue is one of fundamental error, since the import of C.E.L.'s claim is that " the evidence is insufficient to show that a crime was committed at all." F.B. v. State, 852 So.2d 226, 230 (Fla.2003). Accordingly, we proceed to the merits of the issue raised on appeal.

B. Judging the Sufficiency of the Evidence

The granting of a motion for judgment of dismissal is warranted only if " the evidence is insufficient to establish a prima facie case of guilt against the child." Fla. R. Juv. P. 8.110(k). " The standard of review that applies to a motion for judgment of dismissal in a juvenile case is the same standard that applies to a motion for judgment of acquittal in a criminal case." A.P.R. v. State, 894 So.2d 282, 284 (Fla. 5th DCA 2005). " We review the trial court's [disposition] of the motion for dismissal under the de novo standard," viewing the evidence " in the light most favorable to the State." R.R.W. v. State, 915 So.2d 633, 634-35 (Fla. 2d DCA 2005). " If, upon reviewing the evidence in a light most favorable to the State, a rational fact-finder could find the elements of the crime proven beyond a reasonable doubt, then the evidence is sufficient to sustain the adjudication of delinquency." I.M. v. State, 917 So.2d 927, 929 (Fla. 1st DCA 2005).

C. The Elements of an Offense Under Section 843.02

Section 843.02 provides that " [w]hoever shall resist, obstruct, or oppose any officer ... in the lawful execution of any legal duty, without offering or doing violence to the person of the officer, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor of the first degree." The threshold for establishing the commission of an offense under this statutory provision is that the officer be in the " lawful execution" of a " legal duty." To meet this threshold, the conduct of the officer must be consistent with the Fourth Amendment and any other relevant requirements of law. See Tillman v. State, 934 So.2d 1263, 1274 (Fla.2006). In determining whether this threshold has been met, " courts must apply the legal standards governing the duty undertaken by the law enforcement officer at the point that an ... act of ... resistance occurs." Id. at 1271. To establish the offense, it

Page 561

also must be shown that the defendant knew of the officer's status as an officer. See Polite v. State, 973 So.2d 1107, 1117 (Fla.2007). And, of course, there must be an act by the defendant of resisting, obstructing, or opposing the officer.

We have previously recognized that flight in knowing defiance of a law enforcement officer's lawful order to stop constitutes an act of resisting, obstructing, or opposing an officer in the lawful execution of a legal duty. For example, in D.M. v. State, 681 So.2d 797 (Fla. 2d DCA 1996), we addressed circumstances where the defendant fled from an officer attempting to carry out an investigative detention. We held that to establish the commission of an offense under section 843.02, " the state must establish that [ (1) ] the defendant fled with knowledge of the officer's intent to detain him and [ (2) ] the officer was justified in making the detention due to his founded suspicion that the defendant was engaged in criminal activity." 681 So.2d at 798; see also J.R.P. v. State, 942 So.2d 452, 453-54 (Fla. 2d DCA 2006); F.E.C. v. State, 559 So.2d 413, 414 (Fla. 2d DCA 1990). Accordingly, a defendant who flees from the police is culpable under section 843.02 if (a) a law enforcement officer issues a lawful order to the defendant to stop, (b) the defendant has knowledge of the order and that it is issued by a law enforcement officer, and (c) the defendant refuses to obey the order.

D. The Relationship Between Section 843.02 and Police Action under Wardlow

Here, there is no suggestion either that the order to stop was unlawful or that C.E.L. did not act in knowing defiance of the order. The question presented by the instant case is whether an exception should be made from the general rule that knowing defiance of a lawful order to stop constitutes a violation of section 843.02. The defense contends that the general rule is inapplicable when the order to stop is justified under Wardlow, 528 U.S. at 124, 120 S.Ct. 673, which held that the...

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