FINAL UNTIL TIME EXPIRES TO FILE REHEARING MOTION AND, IF
from the Circuit Court for Hillsborough County; Chet A.
L. Dimmig, II, Public Defender, and Robert D. Rosen,
Assistant Public Defender, Bartow, for Appellant.
Jo Bondi, Attorney General, Tallahassee, and Wendy
Buffington, Assistant Attorney General, Tampa, for Appellee.
Marie Weaver challenges the denial of her motion to suppress,
which she preserved for appeal when pleading guilty on one
count of operating an unregistered vehicle and one count of
possession of a controlled substance. We conclude that the
trial court's denial of the motion to suppress was
erroneous and reverse.
FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
April 14, 2016, Ms. Weaver was stopped because the license
plate on the vehicle she was driving did not match the
vehicle. According to the arresting officer, Ms. Weaver
explained when questioned "that her friend attached the
tag to the vehicle so that she was able to drive it."
The officer arrested Ms. Weaver for attaching a license plate
not assigned to that vehicle. A search of Ms. Weaver incident
to arrest revealed that she was in possession of amphetamine.
Ms. Weaver was ultimately charged with possession of a
controlled substance and operating an unregistered vehicle,
§ 320.02(1), Fla. Stat. (2015), rather than attaching a
license plate not assigned, § 320.261.
Weaver moved to suppress evidence obtained pursuant to the
arrest and search incident to arrest, arguing that the
officer lacked probable cause to arrest because the officer
did not observe her attach the license plate to the vehicle.
Thus, she argued, the warrantless arrest for a misdemeanor
committed outside the presence of the officer was illegal.
The State argued that Ms. Weaver's statement to the
officer combined with the officer's observations were
sufficient to provide probable cause to arrest. The trial
court denied the motion.
Weaver entered an open plea following the denial of the
motion to suppress, reserving the right to appeal the denial
of the motion. She was sentenced to forty-eight months'
reviewing a motion to suppress, the standard of review for
the trial court's application of the law to its factual
findings is de novo, but a reviewing court must defer to the
factual findings of the trial court that are supported by
competent, substantial evidence." Bautista v.
State, 902 So.2d 312, 313-14 (Fla. 2d DCA 2005) (quoting
Cillo v. State, 849 So.2d 353, 354 (Fla. 2d DCA
Weaver was arrested for unlawfully attaching a license plate
not assigned to the vehicle she was driving, in violation of
section 320.261. Pursuant to section 320.261,
Any person who knowingly attaches to any motor vehicle or
mobile home any registration license plate, or who knowingly
attaches any validation sticker or mobile home sticker to a
registration license plate, which plate or sticker was not
issued and assigned or lawfully transferred to ...