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Biondi v. State

Florida Court of Appeals, Fourth District

March 21, 2018

MICHAEL BIONDI, Appellant,
v.
STATE OF FLORIDA, Appellee.

         Not final until disposition of timely filed motion for rehearing.

          Appeal from the Circuit Court for the Seventeenth Judicial Circuit; Broward County; David A. Haimes and Elizabeth Scherer, Judges; L.T. Case No. 14-012725CF10A.

          Carey Haughwout, Public Defender, and Jeffrey L. Anderson, Assistant Public Defender, West Palm Beach, for appellant.

          Pamela Jo Bondi, Attorney General, Tallahassee, and Kimberly T. Acuña, Assistant Attorney General, West Palm Beach, for appellee.

          LEVINE, J.

         This court must decide if a Pembroke Pines police officer working as a special deputy assigned to the Broward County Sheriff's Office (BSO) Multi-Agency Gang Task Force was authorized to stop appellant in the City of Hollywood for a traffic citation. We hold that the state presented insufficient evidence to demonstrate that the officer had jurisdiction to stop appellant for a traffic citation. Therefore, we reverse.[1]

         While driving in the City of Hollywood, a Pembroke Pines police officer stopped appellant for a seatbelt violation. At the time, the officer was working as a special deputy as part of the Broward County Sheriff's Office Multi-Agency Gang Task Force. The officer called for a K-9 unit. Another Pembroke Pines officer, also a member of the gang task force, arrived with his canine partner. Appellant consented to a search of his car, and three capsules of heroin were found in an envelope above appellant's seat.

         Appellant unsuccessfully moved to suppress the evidence obtained during the traffic stop as the fruits of an unlawful search, arguing that the Pembroke Pines officer lacked jurisdiction to stop his vehicle in the City of Hollywood. During the suppression hearing, the state's evidence consisted solely of the officer's Notice of Appointment to the gang task force[2] and the officer's testimony regarding his understanding of his authority. The state presented no evidence during the suppression hearing or at trial indicating that the stop or the heroin was gang-related.

         At trial, the evidence showed that appellant had agreed to drive his roommate and a friend down to Miami from his home in Hollywood on the day of the stop. While in Miami, the roommate purchased heroin while appellant waited in his car. During the ride home, the roommate handed appellant an envelope containing three small heroin capsules. Appellant took the envelope and placed it in the driver's side visor above him.

         The jury convicted appellant of possession of heroin. Appellant appeals raising several issues, including the denial of his motion to suppress.

         In reviewing a ruling on a motion to suppress, we defer to the trial court's factual findings, but review its legal conclusions de novo. Woods v. State, 25 So.3d 669, 670 (Fla. 4th DCA 2010).

         The officer's appointment as a special deputy is governed by section 30.09(4)(b), Florida Statutes. That section allows special deputies to be appointed for a number of permitted purposes, including undercover investigative work. § 30.09(4)(b), Fla. Stat. (2016).

         Section 30.09 has been interpreted as granting only specific, limited powers to special deputies. See generally Ramer v. State, 530 So.2d 915 (Fla. 1988). In appointing a special deputy, a county sheriff may not grant "unrestrained power" or delegate the sheriff's law enforcement functions to the deputized official. Id. at 917-18. Thus, while a special deputy is authorized to use the powers available to a sheriff when performing activities specifically allowed by the statute or as part of the specific program under which he is deputized, he may not exercise that power when he is acting beyond the scope of his role as a special deputy. See id. at 917.

         Here, the officer's Notice of Appointment to the gang task force specifically stated that the officer was appointed as a special deputy pursuant to section 30.09(4)(b). The Notice of Appointment granted the officer only those "powers of arrest reasonable and necessary to perform undercover investigative work for the Task Force." Thus, the terms of the Notice of Appointment granted members of the ...


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