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Edwards v. State

Florida Court of Appeals, Third District

June 26, 2019

Saintamen Edwards, Appellant,
v.
The State of Florida, Appellee.

         Not final until disposition of timely filed motion for rehearing.

          An Appeal from the Circuit Court for Miami-Dade County, Martin Zilber, Judge. Lower Tribunal No. 15-19792

          Marcia J. Silvers, P.A., and Marcia J. Silvers, for appellant.

          Ashley Moody, Attorney General, and Michael W. Mervine, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

          Before EMAS, C.J., and SCALES and HENDON, JJ.

          EMAS, C.J.

         INTRODUCTION

         Saintamen Edwards, a former Miami-Dade County police officer, appeals her conviction and sentence for two counts of official misconduct. Her primary contention on appeal is that the trial court erred in denying her motion to suppress evidence obtained from a personal flash drive plugged into her work computer. Following our review of the record, and the issues raised on appeal, we affirm.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         In 2013, Edwards was arrested and charged with two counts of official misconduct after an investigation revealed she had falsified police records in an apparent attempt to get her husband, Clyde Edwards (Clyde), fired from his job at a sports apparel and footwear store. Clyde's boss, Jose Raij, contacted police after he received a phone call from someone identifying herself as Miami-Dade police detective Diann Mich. The caller told Raij that Clyde should be fired because he was being investigated by police, and that there were police reports regarding the investigation. Raij asked to see a copy of the police reports and, at 4:09 p.m. on July 8, 2013, Raij received the following email:

Mr. Raij, attached are two reports I am able to release to you at this time. As we discussed, please do not discuss the open case with the suspect. I will forward you the complete file in a couple of days. Thank you, Diann

Two police reports were attached to the email, indicating that Clyde was being investigated for selling counterfeit sports shoes. However, further investigation by Raij and Miami-Dade Police revealed that the two police reports had been falsified, and were emailed to Raij from a copy machine located on the second floor of the Miami-Dade County Police Department Intracoastal District Station, where Edwards worked. The evidence against Edwards included the testimony of three fellow police officers, who testified that they saw Edwards near that copy machine on the second floor of the police department on July 8 around 4 p.m., and the contents of a USB flash drive (the "flash drive") that was seized from Edwards' work computer prior to her arrest.[1]

         Edwards' defense was that she could not have created and sent the falsified police reports because she was not at the police department at the time the reports were emailed to Raij, having left work early that day not feeling well. She claimed that she had an office visit with her therapist from 2 to 3 p.m., and thereafter, had lunch and picked up her daughter from daycare at 4:20 p.m.[2]

          Prior to trial, Edwards moved to suppress the evidence obtained from the flash drive attached to her work computer at the time it was seized, asserting that the flash drive was her personal property, and was thus illegally seized at the time her work computer was legally seized. After an evidentiary hearing, the court denied Edwards' motion to suppress the evidence obtained from the flash drive, determining she had no reasonable expectation of privacy in the flash drive and its contents.

         Following trial, a jury convicted Edwards of both counts of official misconduct, and she was thereafter sentenced to probation.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         When reviewing a trial court's ruling on a motion to suppress, the appellate court "affords a presumption of correctness to a trial court's findings of fact but reviews de novo the mixed questions of law and fact that arise in the application of the historical facts to the protections of the Fourth Amendment." Wyche v. State, 987 So.2d 23, 25 (Fla. 2008). Generally, a person's Fourth Amendment rights are implicated only if the search or seizure infringes on "an expectation of privacy that society is prepared to consider reasonable." O'Connor v. Ortega, 480 U.S. 709, 715 (1987) (quoting U.S. v. Jacobsen, 466 U.S. 109, 104 (1984)). Importantly, "[g]iven the great variety of work ...


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