final until disposition of timely filed motion for rehearing.
from the Circuit Court for the Seventeenth Judicial Circuit,
Broward County; Jeffrey R. Levenson, Judge; L.T. Case No.
B. Blank of Haber Blank, LLP, Fort Lauderdale, for appellant.
Jo Bondi, Attorney General, Tallahassee, and Don M. Rogers,
Assistant Attorney General, West Palm Beach, for appellee.
series of burglaries, a high-speed chase, and a fatal car
accident killing two bicyclists, Appellant Obrian Oakley was
charged with two counts of first degree felony murder; two
counts of vehicular homicide/failure to render aid; and five
counts of burglary of a conveyance. Appellant was found
guilty on all charges. On appeal, Appellant argues that the
trial court abused its discretion by admitting certain
photographic evidence. He also contends that it was error to
sentence him on all four homicide counts when there were two,
not four, deaths. As to Appellant's first point, we
disagree and find no abuse of the trial court's
discretion. We agree with Appellant's second point and
write to address only this issue. Because we reverse the
lesser vehicular homicide convictions, we need not address
Appellant's remaining arguments challenging his vehicular
and his accomplice burglarized several unlocked vehicles
within a neighborhood. Their scheme had the accomplice
looking for unlocked cars and removing any valuables inside,
while Appellant waited in a silver Infiniti, watching the
accomplice go from car to car, occasionally returning with
stolen items. A neighborhood resident pulled into his
cul-de-sac and saw a silver Infiniti slowly pass by him. The
resident saw the accomplice walk toward a parked car in the
resident's driveway, enter it, and sort through the items
within. The resident called the police, who arrived and
arrested the accomplice.
the arrest, the resident saw the silver Infiniti that he had
earlier noticed drive away from the cul-de-sac and pointed
out the car to the police officers. The police gave chase to
the silver Infiniti being driven by Appellant. At the same
time, four friends were riding their road bicycles, as they
did every Sunday morning. As the high-speed chase entered an
intersection, Appellant struck two of the bicyclists, killing
them instantly. A K-9 officer responded to the crash to track
Appellant, who was not found in the car, but was found nearby
a few hours later and arrested.
deaths of the two bicyclists, Appellant was charged and
convicted of two counts of first-degree felony murder, as
well as two counts of vehicular homicide/failure to render
aid. Appellant argues on appeal that Florida law prevents two
homicide convictions arising from one death and therefore, it
was error to sentence him on all four homicide counts when
there were two, not four, deaths. Because the issue requires
only a legal determination based on undisputed facts, our
standard of review is de novo. See Trotter v. State,
825 So.2d 362, 365 (Fla. 2002).
Houser v. State, 474 So.2d 1193 (Fla. 1985), the
Florida Supreme Court examined the certified question of
whether a defendant may be sentenced for both DWI
manslaughter and vehicular homicide for a single death.
Id. at 1194. The Supreme Court answered in the
negative, and found that even though they were
Blockburger separate offenses, the legislature did not
intend to punish a single homicide under two separate
statutes. Id. at 1196-97. The Court held that
"only one homicide conviction and sentence may be
imposed for a single death." Id. at 1196.
courts have consistently applied the Houser rule in
cases involving more than one homicide conviction for a
single death in the absence of legislative language to the
contrary. See Goodman v. State, 229 So.3d 366, 382
(Fla. 4th DCA 2017) ("A conviction for DUI manslaughter
and for vehicular homicide involving a single victim violates
double jeopardy."); Wilkes v. State, 123 So.3d
632, 635 (Fla. 4th DCA 2013) (holding the Houser
rule "also extends to convictions for attempted murder
and attempted felony murder from the same attempted
killing"); State v. Merriex, 42 So.3d 934, 936
(Fla. 2d DCA 2010) ("[The defendant's] conviction of
third-degree felony murder bars a vehicular homicide
conviction for the same death."); Rodriguez v.
State, 875 So.2d 642, 645 (Fla. 2d DCA 2004) ("For
the one death he caused, [the defendant] received sentences
for both DUI manslaughter and third-degree murder. These two
sentences for homicide counts cannot stand . . . .");
Collins v. State, 605 So.2d 568, 569 (Fla. 5th DCA
1992) ("Even though they are separate crimes, the courts
have held that a person cannot be convicted of
DUI/Manslaughter and vehicular homicide for the same
death."); Jones v. State, 502 So.2d 1375, 1377
(Fla. 4th DCA 1987) (agreeing that the defendant "may
not be convicted of both third degree murder and manslaughter
for the same death").
State cites to Valdes v. State, 3 So.3d 1067 (Fla.
2009), to argue that the two crimes at issue are
substantially different and as such, the protections against
double jeopardy are not violated. In Valdes, the
defendant fired a gun multiple times and was charged with
multiple counts for the firing of that weapon, none of which
resulted in death. Id. at 1077. The Florida Supreme
Court found that the Double Jeopardy Clause was not violated
because the defendant's conviction for discharging a
firearm from a vehicle within one thousand feet of a person
and his conviction for shooting into an occupied vehicle were
not varying degrees of the same crime, nor was one an
aggravated form of the other, no matter that both crimes
arose from the same factual situation. Id. Here,
however, the convictions of murder and vehicular homicide are
varying degrees of the same crime. Moreover, cases involving
homicide are distinguishable from Valdes because the
Legislature never intended to allow for multiple homicide
convictions arising from one death. See Ivey v.
State, 47 So.3d 908, 911 (Fla. 3d DCA 2010)
("Valdes did not overrule the well-settled
principle that a single death cannot give rise to dual
homicide convictions."); see ...