final until disposition of any timely and authorized motion
under Fla. R. App. P. 9.330 or 9.331.
appeal from the Circuit Court for Escambia County. Edward P.
Nickinson, III, Judge.
Thomas, Public Defender, Danielle Jorden, Assistant Public
Defender, Tallahassee, for Appellant.
Jo Bondi, Attorney General, Sharon S. Traxler, Assistant
Attorney General, Tallahassee, for Appellee.
direct criminal appeal, Ellis claims that the trial court
erred in denying his motion for judgment of acquittal on the
charge of aggravated fleeing or attempting to elude "a
law enforcement officer in an authorized law enforcement
vehicle, with agency insignia and other jurisdictional
markings prominently displayed on the vehicle, with siren and
lights activated" pursuant to section 316.1935(3),
Florida Statutes (2014). Because the state presented legally
sufficient evidence that the agency insignia and other
jurisdictional markings were prominently displayed on the law
enforcement vehicle in this case, we affirm.
the midnight shift, Officer Landy of the Pensacola Police
Department was flagged down by a convenience store employee
who informed Landy that a man had stolen cigarettes and left
in a white car headed west on Bayou Street. Landy headed in
that direction and, within seconds, came upon a white car
stopped at an intersection with no other traffic on the road.
Landy initiated a traffic stop by activating the lights on
her patrol vehicle.
trial, Landy described her patrol vehicle as "a Chevy
Tahoe, marked police vehicle, all the decals, lights
and everything." (Emphasis added). Landy
confirmed that the vehicle had the words "Pensacola
Police Department" on it and that it was
"clearly" a police vehicle. Officer Spikes
arrived at the scene after Landy, and the video from
Spikes' body-cam was also admitted into evidence. The
video showed "PENSACOLAPOLICE.COM" on the back of
Landy's vehicle and "POLICE" along the upper
edge of the rear window.
approached the white car and asked the driver, Ellis, for his
license, which he provided. However, when Landy asked Ellis
to roll down the back-passenger window so that she could
speak to the person in the back seat, Ellis snatched his
license from Landy's hand and sped away, injuring Landy
in the process. Both officers pursued Ellis' vehicle with
their police lights and sirens activated. The brief,
high-speed chase ended when Ellis turned his vehicle into a
dead-end street and abandoned it. Later in the morning, Ellis
was taken into custody.
the state rested, defense counsel moved for a judgment of
acquittal on the ground that Officer Landy's testimony
was not enough to show that agency insignia were prominently
displayed on her vehicle. The trial court denied the motion.
Ellis then took the stand. Notably, Ellis testified that
before he was approached by Officer Landy, he "was
sitting still and the police car . . . pulled up
behind me." (Emphasis added). After the defense rested,
defense counsel renewed the motion for judgment of acquittal,
which again was denied by the trial court. The jury returned
a verdict finding Ellis guilty as charged.
appeal, Ellis claims that the trial court erred in denying
his motion for judgment of acquittal because the state failed
to establish that agency insignia were prominently displayed
on Officer Landy's patrol vehicle, citing Slack v.
State, 30 So.3d 684 (Fla. 1st DCA 2010). In
Slack, this court held that a deputy's testimony
that he was driving a "marked patrol car" with
"lights on top" did not establish that there were
"agency insignia and other jurisdictional markings
prominently displayed on the vehicle" so as to sustain a
conviction for fleeing or attempting to elude a law
enforcement officer. Id. at 687. In noting that not
all markings on law enforcement vehicles constituted agency
insignia, the court cited the Third District's decision
in Gorsuch v. State, 797 So.2d 649, 651 (Fla. 3d DCA
2001), which held that two officers' unmarked vehicles
and a third officer's vehicle marked with a fifteen-inch
City of Miami seal did not have the agency insignia required
by section 316.1935(3). Id.
facts of this case are distinguishable from those in
Slack. Even though Officer Landy stated that she was
driving a "marked police vehicle, " she
supplemented this by testifying that the vehicle had the
words "Pensacola Police Department" on it, that it
had "all the decals" and "lights[, ]" and
that it was "clearly a police vehicle[.]" This
testimony was confirmed by the video from Officer Spikes'
body-cam showing "PENSACOLAPOLICE.COM" and
"POLICE" conspicuously exhibited on the back of
Landy's Tahoe. Viewed in a light most favorable to the
state, this evidence established that agency insignia and
other jurisdictional markings were prominently displayed on
Officer Landy's vehicle. Accordingly, the trial court
properly denied Ellis' motion for judgment of acquittal.
See Dupree v. State, 705 So.2d 90, 93 (Fla. 4th DCA
1998) (en banc) ("Generally, on a motion for judgment of
acquittal, the court should not grant the motion unless,
viewed in a light most favorable to the state, the evidence
does not establish the prima facie case of guilt.").
extent that the dissent equates "agency insignia"-
exclusively-with an agency badge or seal, there is no
authority requiring such a narrow interpretation of the
statutory language. Notably, the word "insignia" is
not defined by the statute, "which means we give the
term its plain and ordinary meaning, resorting to
dictionaries where necessary and helpful." S.C. v.
State, 224 So.3d 249, 250 (Fla. 3d DCA 2017). For
accuracy, "a comparative weighing of dictionaries is
often necessary." Antonin Scalia & Bryan A. Garner,
A Note on the Use of Dictionaries, 16 Green Bag 2d
419, 422 (2013).
Oxford English Dictionary (Second Edition) defines
"insignia" as (1) "badges or distinguishing
marks of office or honor"; or (2) "marks or tokens
indicative of anything." The Cambridge Dictionary
defines "insignia" as "an object or mark which
shows that a person belongs to a particular organization or
has a particular rank." Webster's New World College
Dictionary (Fifth Edition) defines insignia as "badges,
emblems, or other distinguishing marks, as of rank,
membership, etc." And, the MacMillan Dictionary defines
insignia as "a mark on an object that shows who made it,
who it belongs to, or what organization it is connected
any of the above definitions, agency insignia were
prominently displayed on Officer Landy's Tahoe insofar as
the vehicle was marked to clearly identify it as belonging to
the Pensacola Police Department. Specifically, the words
"Pensacola Police Department" and
"PENSACOLAPOLICE.COM" would qualify as agency
insignia. See Mercury Cab Owners' Ass'n v.
Jones, 79 So.2d 782, 783 (Fla. 1955) ("Each member
cab is painted in distinctive colors (red and yellow) and
bears the insignia 'Mercury Cab.'"); Hudson
v. State, No. 12-03-00035-CR, 2004 WL 1852965, *2 (Tex.
App. Aug. 18, 2004) ("The question here is whether the
letters D.P.S. on a hat are an insignia identifying the
wearer as a peace officer. We conclude that they are.");
Fallin v. State, 93 S.W.3d 394, 396 (Tex. App. 2002)
("We find the phrase 'an insignia of a law
enforcement agency, ' as used in section 37.12,
unambiguously refers to any distinguishing mark that
identifies the item as one originating from an official law
enforcement agency.") (emphasis added); see also
Holiday Inns, Inc. v. Holiday Inn, 645 F.2d 239, 241
(4th Cir. 1981) ("It has also distributed towels,
parking lot identification stickers and notices to guests
bearing the insignia 'HOLIDAY INN TM.'");
Fabri-Tek Inc. v. Nat'l Labor Relations Bd., 352
F.2d 577, 580 (8th Cir. 1965) ("In addition to the large
and varivue buttons described heretofore, there were
exhibited on company premises during working time other union
insignia, including a woman's blouse that was stenciled
on the back with the words 'VOTE I.B.E.W.' in very
black 2 1/2-inch letters, and earrings fashioned from
customary union buttons."); Hartley v. Suburban
Radiologic Consultants, Ltd., 295 F.R.D. 357, 364 (D.
Minn. 2013) ("Apex prints the letters on preprinted
letterhead bearing the insignia 'CT Inc.
Services.'"); Amerisource Corp. v. RxUSA
Int'l, Inc., No. 02-CV-2514 (JMA), 2010 WL 2730748,
at *2 (E.D.N.Y. July 6, 2010) ("The Drucker fax header
versions also bear an 'rxusal' insignia in the upper
left corner, which according to Amerisource's computer
forensics expert, indicates that they were printed from a
computer on the RxUSA network."); Allmond v. Bank of
Am., No. 3:07-cv-186-J-33JRK, 2008 WL 205320, at *4 n.3
(M.D. Fla. Jan. 23, 2008) ("In the upper, left-hand
corner, the document bears the insignia 'pps.' . . .
. This Court assumes that this is a mark used by Early
Warning when it did business as Primary Payment
Systems."); Wood v. United States, 125 F.Supp.
42, 46 (S.D.N.Y. 1954) ("At 0633 it returned with a
capsized lifeboat which was hoisted to the side of the ship
and upon inspection was found to bear the insignia 'LT
170'-the designation assigned to The Bucentaur by the
British Registry Office."); People v. Anderson,
221 Cal.Rptr. 516, 519 (Cal.Ct.App. 1990) ("Valles and
Anderson were dressed in blue jumpsuits bearing the insignia
'A.T.F.' on the back and wore what appeared to be
police badges on their chests.").
even assuming that the phrase "agency insignia"
only means agency badges or seals-an assumption contrary to
the above definitions and caselaw-there was nothing to
preclude the state from proving the existence of such
insignia by circumstantial evidence. See State v.
Castillo, 877 So.2d 690, 693 (Fla. 2004) (observing that
it has long been established that circumstantial evidence is
competent to establish the elements of a crime); State v.
Surin, 920 So.2d 1162, 1164 (Fla. 3d DCA 2006)
("[T]he Florida Supreme Court has long accepted that the
State may prove an essential element of an offense through
circumstantial evidence . . ., and one Florida court has
affirmed a conviction where the age of the victim-an
essential element of the crime of child abuse-was proven by
circumstantial evidence alone."). Although there was no
photographic evidence of an agency seal or badge on Officer
Landy's patrol vehicle, Landy's testimony, the
body-cam video, and Ellis' testimony constituted
circumstantial evidence from which a jury could have
concluded-beyond a reasonable doubt-that Landy's vehicle
was marked with the type of agency insignia commonly found on
law enforcement vehicles. Accordingly, we affirm.
Roberts, J., concurs; Makar, J., ...