State v. Van Teamer, No. SC13–318.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Florida
Writing for the CourtQUINCE, J.
Citation151 So.3d 421
Decision Date03 July 2014
Docket NumberNo. SC13–318.
PartiesSTATE of Florida, Petitioner, v. Kerrick Van TEAMER, Respondent.

151 So.3d 421

STATE of Florida, Petitioner
v.
Kerrick Van TEAMER, Respondent.

No. SC13–318.

Supreme Court of Florida.

July 3, 2014.
Rehearing Denied Nov. 19, 2014.


151 So.3d 423

Pamela Jo Bondi, Attorney General, Trisha Meggs Pate, Tallahassee Bureau Chief, Criminal Appeals, and Jay Kubica, Assistant Attorney General, Tallahassee, FL, for Petitioner.

Nancy A. Daniels, Public Defender, and Richard M. Summa, Assistant Public Defender, Tallahassee, FL, for Respondent.

Opinion

151 So.3d 424

QUINCE, J.

This case is before the Court for review of the decision of the First District Court of Appeal in Teamer v. State, 108 So.3d 664 (Fla. 1st DCA 2013).1 The district court certified that its decision is in direct conflict with the decision of the Fourth District Court of Appeal in Aders v. State, 67 So.3d 368 (Fla. 4th DCA 2011). We have jurisdiction. See art. V, § 3(b)(4), Fla. Const. As we explain, we approve the First District's decision and disapprove that of the Fourth District.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On June 22, 2010, an Escambia County Deputy Sheriff observed Kerrick Teamer driving a bright green Chevrolet. Teamer, 108 So.3d at 665. After noticing the car, the deputy continued on his patrol, driving into one of the neighborhoods in that area. Upon traveling back to where he had first seen Teamer, the deputy again observed Teamer driving the same car. The deputy then “ran” the number from Teamer's license plate through the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV) database, as is customary for him while on patrol, and learned that the vehicle was registered as a blue Chevrolet. Id. The database did not return any information regarding the model of the vehicle. Based only on the color inconsistency, the deputy pulled the car over to conduct a traffic stop.

“Upon interviewing the occupants, the deputy learned that the vehicle had recently been painted, thus explaining the inconsistency.” Id. However, during the stop, the deputy noticed a strong odor of marijuana emanating from the car and decided to conduct a search of the vehicle, Teamer, and the other passenger. Id. “Marijuana and crack cocaine were recovered from the vehicle, and about $1,100 in cash was recovered from [Teamer]. [He] was charged with trafficking in cocaine (between 28–200 grams), possession of marijuana (less than 20 grams), and possession of drug paraphernalia” (scales). Id.

On October 4, 2010, Teamer filed a motion to suppress the results of the stop as products of an unlawful, warrantless search. At the hearing on the motion to suppress, the deputy acknowledged that, in his training and experience, he had encountered individuals who would switch license plates and he could not verify a vehicle's identification number without pulling over the vehicle. Id. On cross-examination, the deputy acknowledged that the car was not reported stolen, he had not observed any other traffic violations or suspicious or furtive behavior, he was not “aware of any reports of stolen vehicles or swapped plates in the area,” and “the only thing that was out of the ordinary was the inconsistency of the vehicle color from the registration.” Id.

The trial court denied the motion to suppress, explaining that the rationale for the denial was that the deputy “had a legal right to conduct an investigatory stop when a registration search of the automobile license tag reflected a different color than the observed color of the vehicle.” The trial court found that the deputy made the investigatory stop “because the registration was not consistent with the color of the vehicle” and that since “the vehicle was legally stopped for investigative purposes,” the odor of marijuana that the officer smelled during the stop gave him probable cause to conduct a search. After a jury

151 So.3d 425

trial, Teamer was convicted on all three counts as charged in the information. The trial judge sentenced him to six years on count one and time served on the other two counts.

Teamer appealed, and the First District reversed the trial court's denial of Teamer's motion to suppress, certifying conflict with the Fourth District in Aders. Id. at 670. The First District acknowledged “that any discrepancy between a vehicle's plates and the registration may legitimately raise a concern that the vehicle is stolen or the plates were swapped from another vehicle,” but found that such concern must be weighed “against a citizen's right under the Fourth Amendment to travel on the roads free from governmental intrusions.” Id. at 667. The district court cited several cases demonstrating that color discrepancy is typically one of several factors constituting reasonable suspicion. Id. at 668. The First District then cited two nonbinding cases2 for the principle that a color discrepancy alone does not provide reasonable suspicion for a stop. Id. at 668–69. Relying on those cases and other “somewhat analogous cases involving investigations of ‘temporary tags,’ ” the district court ruled that a color discrepancy alone did not warrant an investigatory stop. Id. at 669–70. The court found that under the converse ruling, “every person who changes the color of [his or her] vehicle is continually subject to an investigatory stop so long as the color inconsistency persists.” Id. at 670. The First District stated that it was “hesitant to license an investigatory stop” under such circumstances. Id.

ANALYSIS

In reviewing a trial court's ruling on a motion to suppress, the trial court's determinations of historical facts are reversed only if not supported by competent, substantial evidence. Connor v. State, 803 So.2d 598, 608 (Fla.2001). However, the application of the law to those facts is subject to de novo review. Id. Further, this Court is required to construe Florida's constitutional right against unreasonable searches and seizures “in conformity with the [Fourth] Amendment to the United States Constitution, as interpreted by the United States Supreme Court.” Art. I, § 12, Fla. Const.; Bernie v. State, 524 So.2d 988, 990–91 (Fla.1988) (“[W]e are bound to follow the interpretations of the United States Supreme Court with relation to the [F]ourth [A]mendment....”).

The United States Supreme Court has “held that the police can stop and briefly detain a person for investigative purposes if the officer has a reasonable suspicion supported by articulable facts that criminal activity ‘may be afoot,’ even if the officer lacks probable cause.” United States v. Sokolow, 490 U.S. 1, 7, 109 S.Ct. 1581, 104 L.Ed.2d 1 (1989) (quoting Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 30, 88 S.Ct. 1868, 20 L.Ed.2d 889 (1968) ); Popple v. State, 626 So.2d 185, 186 (Fla.1993) (“[A] police officer may reasonably detain a citizen temporarily if the officer has a reasonable suspicion that a person has committed, is committing, or is about to commit a crime.” (citing § 901.151, Fla. Stat. (1991) )). However, a “police officer must be able to point to specific and articulable facts which, taken together with rational inferences from those facts, reasonably warrant” an investigatory stop. Terry, 392 U.S. at 21, 88 S.Ct. 1868. The Supreme Court has described reasonable suspicion as “a particularized and objective basis for suspecting the particular person

151 So.3d 426

stopped of criminal activity.” United States v. Cortez, 449 U.S. 411, 417, 101 S.Ct. 690, 66 L.Ed.2d 621 (1981). This standard requires “something more than an ‘inchoate and unparticularized suspicion or hunch.’ ” Sokolow, 490 U.S. at 7, 109 S.Ct. 1581 (quoting Terry, 392 U.S. at 27, 88 S.Ct. 1868 ) (internal quotation marks omitted).

“Reasonableness, of course, depends ‘on a balance between the public interest and the individual's right to personal security free from arbitrary interference by law officers.’ ” Pennsylvania v. Mimms, 434 U.S. 106, 109, 98 S.Ct. 330, 54 L.Ed.2d 331 (1977) (quoting United States v. Brignoni–Ponce, 422 U.S. 873, 878, 95 S.Ct. 2574, 45 L.Ed.2d 607 (1975) ); State v. Diaz, 850 So.2d 435, 439 (Fla.2003) (“The real test is one of reasonableness, which involves balancing the interests of the State with those of the motorist.”). “When a search or seizure is conducted without a warrant, the government bears the burden of demonstrating that the search or seizure was reasonable.” Hilton v. State, 961 So.2d 284, 296 (Fla.2007) (citing United States v. Johnson, 63 F.3d 242, 245 (3d Cir.1995) (“As a general rule, the burden of proof is on the defendant who seeks to suppress evidence. However, once the defendant has established a basis for his motion, i.e., the search or seizure was conducted without a warrant, the burden shifts to the government to show that the search or seizure was reasonable.” (citation omitted))).

Reasonable suspicion must also be assessed based on “the totality of the circumstances—the whole picture,” Cortez, 449 U.S. at 417, 101 S.Ct. 690 ; United States v. Arvizu, 534 U.S. 266, 277, 122 S.Ct. 744, 151 L.Ed.2d 740 (2002), and “from the standpoint of an objectively reasonable police officer,” Ornelas v. United States, 517 U.S. 690, 696, 116 S.Ct. 1657, 134 L.Ed.2d 911 (1996) ; Arvizu, 534 U.S. at 277, 122 S.Ct. 744. Thus, a police officer may...

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25 practice notes
  • State v. Hawkins, No. 2018-1177
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Ohio
    • October 16, 2019
    ...activity. United States v. Uribe , 709 F.3d 646 (7th Cir.2013) ; Schneider v. State , 2015 Ark. 152, 459 S.W.3d 296 ; State v. Teamer , 151 So.3d 421 (Fla.2014) ; Commonwealth v. Mason , Va.App. No. 1956-09-2, 2010 WL 768721 (Mar. 9, 2010) (unpublished decision); State v. O'Neill , N.H.Supe......
  • Lucas v. State, 1D19-3882
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Florida (US)
    • June 10, 2021
    ...vehicle with an inconsistent color," Van Teamer v. State , 108 So. 3d 664, 670 (Fla. 1st DCA 2013), approved sub nom . State v. Teamer , 151 So. 3d 421 (Fla. 2014), we hesitate to subject every vehicle with a Florida dealer tag to an investigatory detention. An officer may be justified in m......
  • State v. J.C., Case No. 2D19-712
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Florida (US)
    • March 4, 2020
    ...that criminal activity may [have been] afoot." See Peterson v. State, 264 So. 3d 1183, 1189 (Fla. 2d DCA 2019) (quoting State v. Teamer, 151 So. 3d 421, 425 (Fla. 2014) ); see also § 901.151(2) Fla. Stat. (2018) (providing that an officer may temporarily detain a person to determine the per......
  • State v. Kraft, No. 4D19-1499
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Florida (US)
    • August 19, 2020
    ..."The primary rationale behind the exclusionary rule is to deter law enforcement from violating constitutional rights." State v. Teamer , 151 So. 3d 421, 430 (Fla. 2014). But like any good rule, it is not without exception. The state contends that the "good faith" exception to the exclusiona......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
25 cases
  • State v. Hawkins, No. 2018-1177
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Ohio
    • October 16, 2019
    ...activity. United States v. Uribe , 709 F.3d 646 (7th Cir.2013) ; Schneider v. State , 2015 Ark. 152, 459 S.W.3d 296 ; State v. Teamer , 151 So.3d 421 (Fla.2014) ; Commonwealth v. Mason , Va.App. No. 1956-09-2, 2010 WL 768721 (Mar. 9, 2010) (unpublished decision); State v. O'Neill , N.H.Supe......
  • Lucas v. State, 1D19-3882
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Florida (US)
    • June 10, 2021
    ...vehicle with an inconsistent color," Van Teamer v. State , 108 So. 3d 664, 670 (Fla. 1st DCA 2013), approved sub nom . State v. Teamer , 151 So. 3d 421 (Fla. 2014), we hesitate to subject every vehicle with a Florida dealer tag to an investigatory detention. An officer may be justified in m......
  • State v. J.C., Case No. 2D19-712
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Florida (US)
    • March 4, 2020
    ...that criminal activity may [have been] afoot." See Peterson v. State, 264 So. 3d 1183, 1189 (Fla. 2d DCA 2019) (quoting State v. Teamer, 151 So. 3d 421, 425 (Fla. 2014) ); see also § 901.151(2) Fla. Stat. (2018) (providing that an officer may temporarily detain a person to determine the per......
  • State v. Kraft, No. 4D19-1499
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Florida (US)
    • August 19, 2020
    ..."The primary rationale behind the exclusionary rule is to deter law enforcement from violating constitutional rights." State v. Teamer , 151 So. 3d 421, 430 (Fla. 2014). But like any good rule, it is not without exception. The state contends that the "good faith" exception to the exclusiona......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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