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State v. Stouffer

Florida Court of Appeals, Fourth District

May 23, 2018

STATE OF FLORIDA, Appellant,
v.
LEWIS STOUFFER, CLARK JEFFREY THOMPSON, and CRAIG TURTURO, Appellees.

         Not final until disposition of timely filed motion for rehearing.

          Appeal from the Circuit Court for the Nineteenth Judicial Circuit, Indian River County; Cynthia L. Cox, Judge; L.T. Case Nos. 312012CF000882A, 312012CF000882C, 312012CF000882E.

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

          Donnie Murrell, West Palm Beach, for appellee Lewis Stouffer.

          Daniel R. Aaronson of Benjamin, Aaronson & Patanzo, PA, Fort Lauderdale, for appellee Clark Jeffrey Thompson.

          David S. Weinstein of Hinshaw & Culbertson, LLP, Coral Gables, for appellee Craig L. Turturo.

          LEVINE, J.

         An Indian River County Sheriff's Office ("IRCSO") detective, as part of an investigation originating in his home county, was the sole affiant on applications and affidavits for search warrants in both Broward and Palm Beach Counties. The trial court granted the motion to suppress evidence that was obtained as a result of both search warrants, stating that the detective acted outside his jurisdiction "under color of office" to obtain both search warrants.

         We are asked to determine if the detective had the authority to be the affiant on search warrants and their accompanying affidavits in counties outside his jurisdiction where the detective was investigating a case that originated within his own jurisdiction. We find that the trial court erred in suppressing the evidence and find that the detective could be an affiant for applications and affidavits that would serve as the basis for search warrants outside of his jurisdiction. Therefore, we reverse and remand.

         Prior to the suppression hearing conducted by the trial court, the parties stipulated that an investigation of pain clinics began in Indian River County in 2011. IRCSO, the Drug Enforcement Agency, and various other local law enforcement agencies were involved in this joint investigation, which included multiple defendants and various locations in several counties in Florida. As part of the investigation, a detective from IRCSO went to Broward County and Palm Beach County to be the affiant on search warrant applications for the residences of appellees in both counties. The IRCSO detective was the sole affiant on the search warrants. The detective included in the affidavit in support of the search warrants that he is a sworn law enforcement officer from the IRCSO. He also utilized sealed wiretap information that was part of the ongoing investigation in Indian River County.

         The search warrants were executed by law enforcement officers with either statewide or local jurisdiction. Subsequently, appellees filed motions to suppress alleging that the IRCSO detective was outside of his jurisdiction when he sought the search warrants in Broward and Palm Beach. The trial court agreed by granting the motion to suppress and finding that the detective acted "under color of office" when being an affiant of the search warrants from Broward County and Palm Beach County. This appeal follows.

         "A trial court's ruling on a motion to suppress comes to the appellate court clothed with a presumption of correctness and the court must interpret the evidence and reasonable inferences and deductions derived therefrom in a manner most favorable to sustaining the trial court's ruling." Luna v. State, 154 So.3d 1181, 1183 (Fla. 4th DCA 2015) (citation omitted). "The appellate court defers to the trial court's findings regarding the facts and uses the de novo standard of review for legal conclusions." Id. (citation omitted). To the extent this case involves an issue of statutory interpretation, a de novo standard of review applies. Therlonge v. State, 184 So.3d 1120, 1121 (Fla. 4th DCA 2015).

         We begin our analysis by reviewing the plain language of the applicable statutes. Section 933.06, Florida Statutes (2011), states:

The judge must, before issuing the warrant, have the application of some person for said warrant duly sworn to and subscribed, and may receive further testimony from witnesses or supporting affidavits, or depositions in writing, to support the application. The affidavit and further proof, if same be had or required, must set forth the facts tending to ...

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