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Lott v. State

Florida Court of Appeal, Fifth District

November 10, 2011

Joseph LOTT, Appellant,
v.
STATE of Florida, Appellee.

Page 557

James S. Purdy, Public Defender, and Brynn Newton, Assistant Public Defender, Daytona Beach, for Appellant.

Pamela Jo Bondi, Attorney General, Tallahassee, and Mary G. Jolley, Assistant Attorney General, Daytona Beach, for Appellee.

SAWAYA, J.

Joseph Lott appeals his conviction and sentence for driving while license suspended (DWLS) causing serious bodily injury [1] and reckless driving causing serious injury.[2] This case stems from a car accident, which occurred while Lott was fleeing from a police officer in a stolen car. As a result of the accident, the driver of the other car suffered serious injuries. Based on this incident, Lott was charged with: (1) fleeing or attempting to elude a police officer; (2) DWLS causing serious bodily injury; (3) reckless driving causing serious injury; (4) leaving the scene of a crash involving personal injury; and (5) grand theft of a motor vehicle. He entered a no contest plea to all five of the charges and he was sentenced accordingly. On appeal, Lott contends his conviction for both DWLS causing serious bodily injury and reckless driving causing serious injury is a double jeopardy violation because there was only one victim. We disagree and affirm.

Although the Constitution prohibits multiple prosecutions, convictions and sentences for the same criminal offense, the courts have consistently held that " there is no constitutional prohibition against multiple punishments for different offenses arising out of the same criminal transaction as long as the Legislature intends to authorize separate punishments." Valdes v. State, 3 So.3d 1067, 1069 (Fla.2009); see also McKinney v. State, 66 So.3d 852 (Fla.2011). We know that the crimes the defendant has been convicted of in the instant case arose out of the same criminal transaction, so the first step in the inquiry is to determine whether there is a clear statement of legislative intent to authorize or to prohibit separate punishments for violations of sections 316.192(3)(c)2. and 322.34(6)(b), Florida Statutes. The analysis of these two statutes reveals no clear statement of legislative intent one way or the other.

Page 558

" [A]bsent an explicit statement of legislative intent to authorize separate punishments for two crimes, application of the Blockburger ‘ same-elements' test pursuant to section 775.021(4) ... is the sole method of determining whether multiple punishments are double-jeopardy violations." Gaber v. State, 684 So.2d 189, 192 (Fla.1996) (footnote omitted); see also Valdes, 3 So.3d at 1070 (" ‘ Absent a clear statement of legislative intent to authorize separate punishments for two crimes, courts employ the Blockburger test, as codified in section 775.021, Florida Statutes (1997), to determine whether separate offenses exist.’ " (quoting Gordon v. State, 780 So.2d 17, 19-20 (Fla.2001), receded from on other grounds by Valdes )). Therefore, the next step in the double jeopardy analysis is the application of the Blockburger [3] test codified in section 775.021(4), Florida Statutes,[4] which provides:

(4)(a) Whoever, in the course of one criminal transaction or episode, commits an act or acts which constitute one or more separate criminal offenses, upon conviction and adjudication of guilt, shall be sentenced separately for each criminal offense; and the sentencing judge may order the sentences to be served concurrently or consecutively. For the purposes of this subsection, offenses are separate if each offense requires proof of an element that the other does not, without regard to the accusatory pleading or the proof adduced at trial.
(b) The intent of the Legislature is to convict and sentence for each criminal offense committed in the course of one criminal episode or transaction and not to allow the principle of lenity as set forth in subsection (1) to determine legislative intent. Exceptions to this rule of construction are:

1. Offenses which require identical elements of proof.

2. Offenses which are degrees of the same offense as provided by statute.
3. Offenses which are lesser offenses the statutory elements of which are subsumed by the greater offense.[[5]]

The Legislature has clearly expressed its intent in section 775.021(4)(a) that an individual who commits an act or acts that constitute separate criminal offenses committed in a single transaction shall be punished separately for each offense. Offenses are separate offenses if each requires proof of an element that the other does not. Both statutes at issue here, sections 316.192(3)(c)2. (reckless driving) and 322.34(6)(b) (driving with a suspended license), require proof of an element that the other does not. Hence the Legislature intends separate convictions and sentences for each offense unless the offenses fall into one of the enumerated

Page 559

exceptions listed in section 775.021(4)(b). See Valdes, 3 So.3d at 1071.

The first exception does not apply. As previously stated, the offenses do not require identical elements of proof. Under the second exception, " ‘ [t]he Legislature intend[ed] to disallow separate punishments for crimes arising from the same criminal transaction only when the statute itself provides for an offense with multiple degrees.’ " Valdes, 3 So.3d at 1076 (quoting State v. Paul,934 So.2d 1167, 1176 (Fla.2006) (Cantero, J., specially concurring), receded from on other grounds by Valdes ). This exception does not apply because " the two offenses are found in separate ...


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