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Clayton v. State

Florida Court of Appeals, First District

August 1, 2018

Michael Clayton, Appellant,
v.
State of Florida, Appellee.

         Not final until disposition of any timely and authorized motion under Fla. R. App. P. 9.330 or 9.331.

          On appeal from the Circuit Court for Union County. David P. Kreider, Judge.

          Andy Thomas, Public Defender, and Laurel Cornell Niles, Assistant Public Defender, Tallahassee, for Appellant.

          Pamela Jo Bondi, Attorney General, and Daniel R. Krumbholz, Assistant Attorney General, Tallahassee, for Appellee.

          Winokur, J.

         Appellant, Michael Clayton, appeals his convictions and sentences for manufacturing cannabis, a third-degree felony, and possession of drug paraphernalia, a first-degree misdemeanor. §§ 893.13(1)(a)2., 893.147(1), Fla. Stat. Clayton argues that the trial court erred in denying his suppression motion. Because we find that the trial court erred in its application of the inevitable discovery doctrine and because Clayton reserved this matter as dispositive in his plea agreement, we reverse and vacate Clayton's judgment and sentences.

         I.

         During the fall of 2015, Union County Sheriff's Office Deputy John Whitehead received information from an anonymous source that Clayton was growing marijuana inside his residence. Deputy Whitehead then received information from the Clay Electric Cooperative regarding the power usage in Clayton's home, which revealed that the power usage of Clayton's home was four times higher than the normal usage of a home of comparable size. Additionally, Deputy Whitehead had the power usage documents reviewed by individuals at the Drug Enforcement Agency. Deputy Whitehead concluded that Clayton was cultivating marijuana inside his residence.

         Deputy Whitehead then went with others to Clayton's home to conduct a "knock and talk" investigation. Deputy Whitehead and his colleagues contacted Clayton outside in the yard, and obtained consent from Clayton to search the home. Clayton also signed a consent to search form. Afterwards, Clayton admitted to cultivating marijuana in his home and that he was the only individual residing in the residence. The subsequent search of Clayton's residence revealed two rooms set up with lighting and marijuana plants growing in various containers. Several electrical tools were also found, which were used to run fans and lighting and other aspects of indoor marijuana cultivation.

         After the State charged Clayton with manufacturing and possession, Clayton moved to suppress the evidence found in the search on the ground that his consent to search was coerced. During the suppression hearing, Deputy Whitehead testified that he advised Clayton of the probable cause that he developed that Clayton was growing marijuana in his home. Regarding Clayton's consent to search, Deputy Whitehead testified as follows:

Initially, I just requested consent to search the residence, I told him, you know, based off the facts before us, I do believe that if we presented this to a judge that there would be enough probable cause for a judge to sign it; however, obviously, that would have to be taken to the state attorney and in the judge's hand. And told him if he cooperated with us, we'd cooperate with him and that I could assure him that on this date, this event, that he would not go to jail unless, like I usually explain to everybody, unless I get inside and find dead bodies or something like that, then, you know, he would be - - charges would be filed and he would later be arrested on a warrant.

         Deputy Whitehead also testified that Clayton was not free to leave during their encounter, and that no attempt was ever made to secure a search warrant because Clayton consented to the search. For his part, Clayton testified that law enforcement made it seem like he was going to be arrested if he did not consent to the search of his home.

         The trial court denied the motion to suppress. The trial court concluded that Clayton's consent was coerced, [*] but found that the inevitable discovery doctrine applied because "law enforcement had the probable cause to procure a search warrant, and were in the process of an active investigation into the existence of a cannabis cultivation operation at [Clayton]'s home." Clayton then pled to the charges, reserving his right to appeal the ...


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