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State v. Garcia

Florida Court of Appeals, Third District

July 25, 2018

The State of Florida, Appellant,
v.
Yonisley Garcia, Appellee.

         Not final until disposition of timely filed motion for rehearing.

          An Appeal from a non-final order from the Circuit Court for Miami-Dade County, Lower Tribunal No. 14-5562B Dennis J. Murphy, Judge.

          Pamela Jo Bondi, Attorney General, and Jonathan Tanoos, Assistant Attorney General, for appellant.

          George T. Pallas, P.A., and George T. Pallas, for appellee.

          Before LAGOA, LOGUE, and LINDSEY, JJ.

          LOGUE, J.

         The State of Florida seeks review of the trial court's order suppressing recordings taken by members of the animal rights organization, Animal Recovery Mission (ARM) documenting the slaughter of pigs on a farm. We reverse and remand for an evidentiary hearing.

         Background

         The defendant, Yonisley Garcia, was charged with aggravated animal cruelty in violation of sections 828.12(2) and 777.011, Florida Statutes (2013). The charges arose after the defendant was filmed slaughtering pigs to be sold for meat. The defendant and his co-defendants allegedly shot the pigs, and if the pigs did not immediately die, they drowned them in cauldrons.

         The defendant filed a motion to suppress the videos on the basis that they were obtained in violation of the prohibition against surreptitious recordings contained in section 934.06, Florida Statutes (2016). He argued that the events occurred on a private farm where he had a reasonable expectation of privacy. The ARM members, he asserted, lied about their true identities and purpose in order to enter the private property, and they did not disclose that they were carrying recording devices.

         In response to the motion to suppress, the State argued that the pigs were sold and slaughtered on property that was open to the public. According to the State, a sign posted at the entrance of the property read "Animals for Sale," and the State asserted that the public was permitted to walk onto the property to purchase a slaughtered pig. The prosecutor proffered that the video recordings showed the defendants talking to other individuals who were on the property to purchase pigs.

         At the hearing, no testimony was taken and no evidence was admitted into the record. Instead, the trial court heard only argument from the lawyers for the parties. The lawyers initially agreed on certain facts. For example, they agreed that two ARM members went to the property at issue with recording devices disguised as wrist watches. The State presented a photo of the property where the pigs were killed, but it was not entered into evidence. As argument proceeded, however, it became apparent that there was no agreement on the critical facts.

         Nevertheless, at the end of the hearing, the trial court granted the motion to suppress. It did so based on certain factual findings. For example, the trial court found that the remote location, the nature of the property, and the general circumstances gave the defendant a reasonable expectation of privacy. The court further found that the ARM members were not acting as private citizens, but "rather as a de facto arm of the State" ...


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