FINAL UNTIL TIME EXPIRES TO FILE MOTION FOR REHEARING AND
DISPOSITION THEREOF IF FILED
appeal from the Circuit Court for Duval County. Linda F.
Thomas, Public Defender, and Barbara J. Busharis, Assistant
Public Defender, Tallahassee, for Appellant.
Jo Bondi, Attorney General, and Robert Quentin Humphrey,
Assistant Attorney General, Tallahassee, for Appellee.
appeal, the appellant argues the trial court erred in denying
his pre-trial motion to suppress statements made to law
enforcement at a time when he had not been provided with an
appropriate interpreter. We find no error in the trial
court's denial of the motion to suppress and affirm.
appellant is a native of Guatemala and primarily speaks a
dialect of the Mayan language, Mayan Mam, along with some
Spanish. The State filed sexual battery and lewd and
lascivious molestation charges against the
twenty-two-year-old appellant, claiming he molested his niece
who was between eight and nine years old at the time. After
he was identified as a suspect, the appellant was detained
and interviewed by a Spanish-speaking detective. At the
outset of the interview, the appellant told the detective
that he only spoke a little English, but he did speak
Spanish. The detective asked the appellant several questions
in Spanish about his background and reviewed his
constitutional rights. The appellant was sufficiently able to
answer the questions and voiced an understanding of his
rights. The appellant signed a Miranda wavier form and was able to read the first
line aloud to the detective. After affirmatively waiving his
rights, the appellant agreed to speak with the detective and
provided several incriminating statements.
appellant later moved to suppress the statements, arguing
that they were obtained in violation of his privilege against
self-incrimination and his right to counsel because he did
not understand his Miranda rights and the interview,
which were conducted in Spanish instead of Mayan Mam. The
appellant argued that his limited education further impeded
his ability to understand his legal rights. The State
responded that the appellant never conveyed that he could not
understand Spanish, never asked for a Mayan Mam interpreter,
and had agreed to talk with the detective after affirmatively
waiving his Miranda rights. The trial court denied
the motion to suppress upon the "totality of the
circumstances, " which included its review of the DVD
and transcript of the interview and consideration of the
testimony and argument at the suppression
hearing. It found the appellant
understood Spanish enough to freely and voluntarily waive his
Miranda rights with a full understanding of what he
was doing and he had agreed to speak with the detective.
appeal, the appellant argues that it was error to deny the
motion to suppress where the totality of the circumstances,
including his language barrier, lack of education, relatively
short time in the United States, and lack of exposure to the
judicial system, supported a conclusion that he did not
knowingly, intelligently, or voluntarily waive his right to
counsel or his privilege against self-incrimination. We
ruling on a motion to suppress comes to the appellate court
with a presumption of correctness. Spivey v. State,
45 So.3d 51, 54 (Fla. 1st DCA 2010) (citing Connor v.
State, 803 So.2d 598, 605 (Fla. 2001)). This Court
applies a mixed standard of review, giving deference to the
factual findings that are supported by competent, substantial
evidence, but reviewing the determination of constitutional
rights de novo. Id.
State carried the burden to prove the appellant waived his
Miranda rights by a preponderance of the evidence.
Balthazar v. State, 549 So.2d 661, 662 (Fla. 1989).
In order to waive Miranda rights, the waiver must be
made "voluntarily, knowingly and intelligently."
Murdock v. State, 115 So.3d 1050, 1055 (Fla. 4th DCA
2013) (citations omitted). The burden of proving
voluntariness is "heavier" when a defendant claims
a language barrier, but the standard of proof remains the
same. Balthazar, 549 So.2d at 662. The appellant
does not claim that his waiver was the product of
intimidation, coercion, or deception. Therefore, the totality
of the circumstances must show that his waiver was made with
a full awareness of the rights he was abandoning and the
consequences of the abandonment. Murdock, 115 So.3d
at 1055 (citing Louis v. State, 855 So.2d 253, 255
(Fla. 4th DCA 2003)).
trial judge's finding that the appellant understood
Spanish well enough to freely and voluntarily waive his
Miranda rights with a full understanding of what he
was doing is supported by competent, substantial evidence.
The appellant was able to sufficiently answer the
detective's background questions in Spanish, and he
acknowledged he understood the rights he was waiving. The
appellant argues that the trial judge failed to consider
factors beyond his language barrier; however, her ruling was
made upon consideration of the "totality of the
circumstances." While the appellant did state he only
had a second-grade education, there was no indication that he
had anything but average intelligence. His answers to the
detective's questions indicated he had a sufficient
understanding of the judicial system. For example, when asked
if he knew what a lawyer was, the appellant stated it was
someone to advocate for him. After the appellant
affirmatively waived his rights, the interview continued in
Spanish wherein the appellant provided a detailed account of
his actions against his niece. Accordingly, the trial judge
appropriately denied the motion to suppress, allowing for the
admission of the appellant's incriminating statements.