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Finney v. State

Florida Court of Appeals, First District

May 19, 2017

ALPHONSO FINNEY, Petitioner,
v.
STATE OF FLORIDA, Respondent.

         NOT FINAL UNTIL TIME EXPIRES TO FILE MOTION FOR REHEARING AND DISPOSITION THEREOF IF FILED

         Petition for Writ of Prohibition -- Original Jurisdiction.

          Andy Thomas, Public Defender, Tallahasse, and Samantha Porche, Assistant Public Defender, Quincy, for Petitioner.

          Pamela Jo Bondi, Attorney General, and Sharon S. Traxler, Assistant Attorney General, Tallahassee, for Respondent.

          PER CURIAM.

         Alphonso Finney filed a petition for writ of prohibition seeking review of the order denying his motion to dismiss the amended information charging him with violating section 322.34(2)(c), Florida Statutes (2015). Finney contends that he is not subject to prosecution under that statute and that the highest offense he can be charged with is a misdemeanor over which the circuit court lacks jurisdiction. We agree and grant the petition.

         Background

         Finney was originally charged with violating section 322.34(5), [1] but the trial court granted Finney's motion to dismiss that charge because he has never had a Florida driver's license. The State thereafter filed an amended information charging Finney under section 322.34(2)(c) for driving while his driving privilege was suspended or revoked. Finney again moved to dismiss, arguing that he could not be charged under section 322.34(2)(c) because he was a "habitual traffic offender" as defined in section 322.264.[2], [3] The trial court denied Finney's motion, noting that the result advocated by Finney "cannot possibly have been the intent of the legislature and this result goes against public policy and neglects public safety."

         Finney sought review of the order denying his motion to dismiss by filing a petition for writ of prohibition in this court. The petition argues that the circuit court lacks jurisdiction because Finney is not subject to prosecution under section 322.34(2)(c) and the highest offense that he can be charged with is driving without a valid license, a misdemeanor. We issued an order to show cause, and in response, the State argued that the "evil" addressed by section 322.34(2)(c) is the "exact indifference and disrespect [Finney] flagrantly continues to participate in" and that to preclude his prosecution under section 322.34(2)(c) "would limit the scope of the statute unreasonably and lead to absurd results."

         Analysis

         Section 322.34(2)(c) provides:

Any person whose driver license or driving privilege has been canceled, suspended, or revoked as provided by law, except persons defined in s. 322.264, who, knowing of such cancellation, suspension, or revocation, drives any motor vehicle upon the highways of this state while such license or privilege is canceled, suspended, or revoked, upon:
(c) A third or subsequent conviction is guilty of a felony of the ...

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