State v. Veilleux

Decision Date07 November 2003
Docket Number No. 2D02-3256., No. 2D02-3226
Citation859 So.2d 1224
PartiesSTATE of Florida, Petitioner, v. Eddie A. VEILLEUX, Respondent.
CourtFlorida District Court of Appeals

Bernie McCabe, State Attorney and William H. Burgess, III, Assistant State Attorney, Clearwater, and Charles J. Crist, Jr., Attorney General, Tallahassee and Katherine V. Blanco, Assistant Attorney General, Tampa, for Petitioner.

Bob Dillinger, Public Defender and Joy K. Goodyear, Assistant Public Defender, Clearwater, for Respondent. COVINGTON, Judge.

The State petitions this court to issue a writ of certiorari and quash the trial court's interlocutory pretrial order granting Eddie A. Veilleux's motion in limine. Because the trial court did not depart from the essential requirements of the law, we deny the State's petition.

BACKGROUND

On February 16, 2002, police stopped Mr. Veilleux for driving a vehicle that had been reported stolen. The State alleges that Mr. Veilleux told officers his name was "Mark Lee White" and that he had a valid New Hampshire driver's license. The State also submits that Mr. Veilleux signed traffic citations for reckless driving and driving without a valid driver's license using the name "Mark Lee White." The police discovered Mr. Veilleux's true identity when they heard a passenger refer to him by a nickname.

The State charged Mr. Veilleux with forgery pursuant to section 831.01, Florida Statutes (2002). He filed a motion in limine to exclude the forged traffic citations based on section 316.650(9), Florida Statutes (2002), and Dixon v. State, 812 So.2d 595 (Fla. 1st DCA 2002). Section 316.650(9) provides that traffic citations "shall not be admissible evidence in any trial." The First District in Dixon specifically held that section 316.650(9) prohibits trial courts from admitting traffic citations as evidence in trials for forgery of the citations. Id. In granting Mr. Veilleux's motion in limine, the trial court stated, "[T]he law is such that I am bound to follow the Dixon case." Dixon is the lone district court case directly on point and is factually indistinguishable from this case.

In Dixon, the defendant gave the police officer who stopped him a false name. Id. at 595-96. In addition, he signed a traffic citation using the false name. Id. at 596. When his true identity was discovered, the defendant in Dixon was charged with forgery1 as well as driving without a valid driver's license. Id. Dixon filed a motion in limine to prohibit the State from introducing the traffic citation as evidence. Id. The trial court denied his motion, finding that the legislature could not have intended the exclusion of a traffic citation when the execution of the citation is the basis of the offense at trial. Id. The First District reversed, observing that section 316.650(9) contains no exceptions to its clear and unambiguous prohibition against admitting a traffic citation as evidence in any trial. Dixon, 812 So.2d at 596. The court stated:

It is a well-established principle of statutory interpretation that an unambiguous statute is not subject to judicial construction, no matter how wise it may seem to alter the plain language of the statute. State v. Jett, 626 So.2d 691, 693 (Fla.1993). "Moreover, `[e]ven where a court is convinced that the legislature really meant and intended something not expressed in the phraseology of the act, it will not deem itself authorized to depart from the plain meaning of the language which is free from ambiguity.'" St. Petersburg Bank & Trust Co. v. Hamm, 414 So.2d 1071, 1073 (Fla. 1982) (quoting Van Pelt v. Hilliard, 75 Fla. 792, 78 So. 693 (1918)).

Id.

The Dixon court pointed out that while courts may interpret a statute in a way that contradicts the statute's plain language where there is "discernable legislative intent" to support such an interpretation, see Vildibill v. Johnson, 492 So.2d 1047, 1049 (Fla.1986),

the court in Dixon had no basis to discern a legislative intent to make an exception to section 316.650(9)'s unambiguous language. Dixon, 812 So.2d at 596. Accordingly, the First District held that, "in view of the absolute mandatory terms of section 316.650(9)," the trial court erred when it denied the defendant's motion in limine in his forgery trial. Id. at 596.

Like the First District in Dixon, we have no basis in this case to discern a legislative intent to make an exception to section 316.650(9)'s unambiguous language. The First District concluded it is the legislature's exclusive province to amend section 316.650(9) if it did not intend the result the statute's plain language mandates. We agree. As Chief Justice Berger stated in Tennessee Valley Authority v. Hill, 437 U.S. 153, 193, 98 S.Ct. 2279, 57 L.Ed.2d 117 (1978) (quoting Hill v. TVA, 549 F.2d 1064, 1069 (6th Cir.1977)):

Our individual appraisal of the wisdom or unwisdom of a particular course consciously selected by the Congress is to be put aside in the process of interpreting a statute. Once the meaning of an enactment is discerned and its constitutionality determined, the judicial process comes to an end. We do not sit as a committee of review, nor are we vested with the power of veto.... [I]n our constitutional system the commitment to the separation of powers is too fundamental for us to pre-empt congressional action by judicially decreeing what accords with "common sense and the public weal." Our Constitution vests such responsibilities in the political branches.

"If the statute is clear and unambiguous `that is the end of the matter, for the court... must give effect to the unambiguously expressed intent of Congress.'" Bd. of Governors v. Dimension Fin. Corp., 474 U.S. 361, 368, 106 S.Ct. 681, 88 L.Ed.2d 691 (1986) (quoting Chevron, U.S.A., Inc., v. Natural Res. Def. Council, Inc., 467 U.S. 837, 842-43, 104 S.Ct. 2778, 81 L.Ed.2d 694 (1984)).

We acknowledge that, as the Dixon court observed, applying the plain and ordinary meaning of the words of section 316.650(9) to these facts "will make convictions for forgery of a traffic citation more difficult...."2 812 So.2d at 596. As the trial court here noted, however, the State can bring in evidence from the officer who issued the citation and witnessed the false signature, as well as other evidence of the defendant's identity and intent.

THE LIMITED STANDARD OF REVIEW ON CERTIORARI

Even if we disagreed with the First District's holding in Dixon, the limited standard of review on certiorari would preclude us from granting relief in this case. An interlocutory pretrial order in a criminal case excluding evidence is subject to certiorari review only when the order departs from the essential requirements of the law and plenary appeal cannot provide an adequate remedy. Trepal v. State, 754 So.2d 702, 705 (Fla.2000); State v. Pettis, 520 So.2d 250, 252-53 (Fla.1988); State v. Busciglio, 426 So.2d 1233, 1233 (Fla. 2d DCA 1983). The State also must demonstrate that the trial court's departure resulted in a miscarriage of justice. Ivey v. Allstate Ins. Co., 774 So.2d 679, 682 (Fla. 2000).

"Existing case law establishes that the departure from the essential requirements of the law necessary for the issuance of a writ of certiorari is something more than a simple legal error...." Id. A court's misapplication of the correct law or "erroneous interpretation of [a] law" does not rise to the necessary level. Id. at 682, 684. The court in Ivey stated: "[A] decision made according to the form of the law and the rules prescribed for rendering it, although it may be erroneous in its conclusion as applied to the facts, is not an illegal or irregular act or proceeding remedial by certiorari." Id. at 682 (quoting Haines City Cmty. Dev. v. Heggs, 658 So.2d 523, 528 (Fla.1995) (additional citations omitted)). Rather, certiorari review limits the proper inquiry to "whether the circuit court afforded procedural due process and whether it applied the correct law." Id.

Here, the trial court applied the correct law, Dixon, which Florida law required it to follow. See Pardo v. State, 596 So.2d 665, 666 (Fla.1992)

(holding that in absence of interdistrict conflict, district court decisions bind all Florida trial courts); Bane v. Bane, 750 So.2d 77, 78 (Fla. 2d DCA 1999) (holding trial court committed clear error in ruling contrary to district court decision that was directly on point but with which it disagreed); Anderson v. Anderson, 746 So.2d 525, 526 (Fla. 2d DCA 1999).

The dissent would hold that we may grant certiorari based on the statute's violation of the clearly established constitutional principle of law that only the supreme court can promulgate procedural rules and on the argument that section 316.650(9) is a procedural rule that has not been approved by the supreme court. See art. V, § 2(a), Fla. Const.; Allstate v. Kaklamanos, 843 So.2d 885 (Fla.2003) (holding "`clearly established law' for certiorari purposes can derive from a variety of legal sources," including, among others, constitutional law).3 A statutory provision is procedural if it "encompass[es] the course, form, manner, means, method, order, process or steps by which a party enforces substantive rights or obtains redress for their invasion. `Practice and procedure' may be described as the machinery of the judicial process as opposed to the product thereof.... It is the method of conducting litigation involving rights and corresponding defenses." Haven Fed. Sav. & Loan Ass'n v. Kirian, 579 So.2d 730, 732 (Fla. 1991).

When the "legislatively imposed `procedure' is interfering with and intruding upon the procedures and processes of this Court and conflicts with this Court's own rule regulating the procedure," a violation of the constitutional limitation on the legislature's enactment of procedural law occurs. Jackson v. Fla. Dep't of Corr., 790 So.2d 381, 385 (Fla.2000). See also Haven Fed. Sav. & Loan, 579 So.2d at 732; Sch. Bd. of Broward County v. Surette, 281 So.2d 481, 483 (Fla.1973).

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