final until disposition of timely filed motion for rehearing.
Appeal from the Circuit Court for Miami-Dade County, Daryl E.
Trawick, Judge. Lower Tribunal No. 15-24324
J. Martinez, Public Defender, and Natasha Baker-Bradley,
Assistant Public Defender, for appellant.
Jo Bondi, Attorney General, and Kayla H. McNab, Assistant
Attorney General, for appellee.
SUAREZ, LAGOA, and SCALES, JJ.
Bryan Harris ("Harris"), appeals his final judgment
of conviction and sentence, challenging the denial of his
motion to suppress physical evidence from the warrantless
search of his backpack following his arrest. Because the
warrantless search was not valid as either a search incident
to arrest or an automobile search, we reverse and remand for
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
10:44 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day 2015, Miami Gardens Police
Officers Blanco and Santiesteban were patrolling the
residential area of N.W. 191st Street and 32nd Avenue in an
unmarked vehicle. The area is known for dirt bikes being
illegally driven on the streets.
officers heard the loud noise of such a dirt bike and
observed Harris driving one in their direction. The dirt bike
lacked headlights, taillights, turn signals, rearview
mirrors, and a tag. Officer Santiesteban, the driver,
conducted a U-turn and followed Harris. When Harris ran a red
light, the officers activated their lights and siren in order
to conduct a traffic stop of Harris. Harris attempted to
drive away, but this ended quickly as Harris fell off the
dirt bike. Officer Blanco, the passenger, then exited the
unmarked police vehicle and arrested Harris for reckless
driving and driving an unregistered vehicle. Officer Blanco
removed a backpack from Harris's person, handcuffed
Harris, and placed the backpack on the hood of the unmarked
police vehicle. Officer Blanco then directed Harris, who was
handcuffed, to sit on the grass approximately five feet from
the officers' vehicle.
their attempt to identify Harris and the dirt bike, Officer
Blanco asked Harris if he had any proof of ownership. Harris
stated he had paperwork in his backpack and told Officer
Blanco to look in the small front compartment of the
backpack. Officer Blanco admitted that upon opening
the front compartment, he found paperwork for the dirt
bike. Officer Blanco further testified that
Harris specifically told him not to open the main compartment
of the backpack. When Officer Blanco opened the smaller
compartment, he smelled marijuana and, based on that smell,
proceeded to search the remainder of the bag, eventually
finding marijuana, oxycodone, and drug paraphernalia.
was subsequently charged with possession of marijuana,
oxycodone, and drug paraphernalia. Harris filed a motion to
suppress the physical evidence found within his backpack. At
the two-day suppression hearing, the State presented the
testimony of Officer Blanco and a portion of the deposition
of Officer Santiesteban. The trial court denied the motion to
suppress, finding that there was probable cause to stop
Harris and that there was a valid search incident to arrest
and determining the other presented arguments were either
irrelevant or moot in light of the first two findings. Based
on the trial court's ruling, Harris entered a plea of
guilty and reserved his right to appeal the denial of his
motion to suppress. This appeal timely followed.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
reviewing a trial court's ruling on motions to suppress,
"appellate courts . . . accord a presumption of
correctness . . . to the trial court's determination of
historical facts, " but review de novo "mixed
questions of law and fact that ultimately determine
constitutional issues arising in the context of the Fourth .
. . Amendment." Connor v. State, 803 So.2d 598,
608 (Fla. 2001). In considering the relevant case law, we are
required "to adhere to the interpretations of the United
States Supreme Court, " but are "not bound to
follow the decisions of other federal courts." State
v. Markus, 211 So.3d 894, 902 (Fla. 2017); accord
Smallwood v. State, 113 So.3d 724, 730 (Fla. 2013). If
no U.S. Supreme Court precedent is factually or legally on
point, we may review "Florida state precedent, as well
as other state and federal decisions for guidance on a search
and seizure issue." Markus, 211 So.3d at 902.
appeal, Harris challenges the trial court's determination
that the search of his backpack was valid as a search
incident to his arrest. In response, the State supports
affirmance of the trial court's determination, and also
argues, in the alternative, that Harris consented to the
search of his backpack.
Search Incident to Arrest
searches "'are per se unreasonable under
the Fourth Amendment-subject only to a few specifically
established and well-delineated exceptions.'"
Arizona v. Gant, 556 U.S. 332, 338 (2009) (quoting
Katz v. United States, 389 U.S. 347, 357 (1967)).
Searches conducted incident to the arrest of a person are one
such exception. See United States v. Robinson, 414
U.S. 218, 224-25 (1973). However, as the Supreme Court has
acknowledged, this exception has been applied inconsistently.
See, e.g., Gant, 556 U.S. at 350 (noting
the "checkered history of the search-incident-to-arrest
exception"); Chimel v. California, 395 U.S.
752, 755 (1969) ("The decisions of this Court bearing
upon that question have been far from consistent, as even the
most cursory review makes evident.").
State contends that the trial court was correct in finding
that Officer Blanco's search of Harris's backpack was
incident to arrest. First, the State argues that the backpack
was a container within Harris's reach both at the time of
his arrest and through the time of the search. See
Chimel, 395 U.S. at 762-63. Second, the State argues
that, as a container on Harris's person at the time of
his arrest, the backpack was subject to search even if it was
removed from Harris's reach. Robinson, 414 U.S.
at 236. Third, the State argues that the backpack was
searchable under the automobile exception as most recently
iterated by Gant. Finally, the State argues that
under the tipsy coachman doctrine this Court may affirm the
trial court's ruling by finding that Harris consented to
the search of the back pack. We address each argument in
Within Harris's Reach
jurisprudence delineating the search incident to arrest
exception begins with Chimel v. California, 395 U.S.
752 (1969). In Chimel, the Court held that when an
individual is arrested, the police officer may search the
arrestee's person and the area within his immediate
control, the latter being "the area from within which he
might gain possession of a weapon or destructible
evidence." Id. at 763. While the purpose of the
exception is for officer safety and preservation of evidence,
no showing that either exists is necessary for the search to
fall within the ...