FINAL UNTIL TIME EXPIRES TO FILE REHEARING MOTION AND, IF
from the Circuit Court for Hillsborough County; Barbara Twine
L. Dimmig, II, Public Defender, and Kevin Briggs, Assistant
Public Defender, Bartow, for Appellant.
Moody, Attorney General, Tallahassee, and Linsey
Sims-Bohnenstiehl, Assistant Attorney General, Tampa, for
appeals a disposition order adjudicating him delinquent on
four counts of petit theft and one count of criminal
mischief. He contends that the trial court erred in denying
his motion for judgment of dismissal. We agree and reverse
the disposition order.
State charged A.L. with five counts of burglary of an
unoccupied conveyance, one count of grand theft in the third
degree, three counts of petit theft, and one count of
criminal mischief. At the adjudicatory hearing, several
witnesses testified that on or about June 7, 2017, several
items were stolen from their vehicles while the vehicles were
parked overnight in the driveway of their homes in Brandon.
Another resident of the Brandon neighborhood testified that
his vehicle was entered into and that a security box that was
underneath the driver's seat of the vehicle had been
damaged. Two other residents testified that they each had
surveillance footage taken on June 7, 2017, from cameras
mounted directly above the driveway of their homes. The
videos were introduced into evidence and played at the
first video showed a person wearing a hoodie attempting to
open a vehicle's passenger door and then walking away.
The second video was recorded from a home located at the end
of a cul-de-sac. The video showed that around 2:00 a.m., two
individuals walked around a street checking car doors and
entering unlocked vehicles. The video also showed that around
4:00 a.m., the two individuals entered a white vehicle parked
outside a home and drove away from the neighborhood. None of
the witnesses at the adjudicatory hearing positively
identified the individuals in the surveillance videos.
deputy testified that on June 8, 2017, he and the
investigating detective responded to the home where the white
vehicle had been parked to obtain information related to the
vehicle burglaries. As part of that investigation, the
officers came into contact with A.L.'s uncle, who lived
in the home. The uncle testified that he gave consent to the
officers to search a bedroom that A.L. shared with his
brother. It is undisputed that the bedroom was a jointly
occupied bedroom. The officers testified that they searched
the bedroom and observed that several items in the bedroom
were similar to the items that had been reported stolen. The
victims, with the exception of one, verified that the items
they had reported stolen were the same items the officers
found in the jointly occupied bedroom.
moved for judgment of dismissal as to all counts at the close
of the State's case-in-chief, arguing that the
State's case was based wholly on insufficient
circumstantial evidence. Defense counsel contended that
someone other than A.L. must have placed the recently stolen
property in the bedroom A.L. shared with his brother. Defense
counsel also specifically argued that the State was not
entitled to use of the statutory inference provided by
section 812.022(2), Florida Statutes (2017), because A.L. did
not have the requisite exclusive possession of the stolen
property. The trial court denied the motion. In so denying
the motion, the trial court determined that the State was
entitled to use of the statutory inference. It explained that
A.L. had exclusive possession of the recently stolen property
because the video surveillance footage established that two
people were acting in concert. At the conclusion of the
adjudicatory hearing, the trial court ruled that it could not
find A.L. delinquent of the five counts of burglary of an
unoccupied conveyance or the count of third-degree grand
theft because there was "no objective proof tying the
accused to the scene of those five places." The trial
court reduced the count of third-degree grand theft to
first-degree petit theft. It also adjudicated A.L. delinquent
of one count of criminal mischief and the remaining three
petit theft counts.
review the denial of a motion for judgment of dismissal de
novo, and we consider the evidence in the light most
favorable to the State. T.A.K. v. State, 258 So.3d
559, 561 (Fla. 2d DCA 2018). "A judgment of dismissal is
proper if the State fails to present sufficient evidence to
establish a prima facie case." Id. (first
citing Fla. R. Juv. P. 8.110(k); then citing E.A.B. v.
State, 851 So.2d 308, 310 (Fla. 2d DCA 2003)).
"Sufficient evidence to support an adjudication exists
when a 'rational trier of fact could find that the
elements of the crime have been established beyond a
reasonable doubt.'" Id. (quoting K.W.
v. State, 983 So.2d 713, 715 (Fla. 2d DCA 2008)).
"In circumstantial evidence cases, the State must
present evidence that is inconsistent with any reasonable
hypothesis of innocence." M.F. v. State, 35
So.3d 998, 1000 (Fla. 2d DCA 2010). This special standard of
review applies "no matter how strongly the evidence may
suggest guilt." Bronson v. State, 926 So.2d
480, 482 (Fla. 2d DCA 2006) (quoting State v. Law,
559 So.2d 187, 188 (Fla. 1989)).
the State was required to prove the delinquent acts of petit
theft and criminal mischief beyond a reasonable doubt. To
prove petit theft, a second-degree misdemeanor, the State had
to establish that (1) A.L. knowingly obtained or used, (2)
the property of another, (3) with intent to either
temporarily or permanently (a) deprive the other person of a
right to or a benefit from the property, or (b) appropriate
the property to his or her own use. See §
812.014(1), (3)(a). To prove criminal mischief, also a
second-degree misdemeanor, the State had to establish that
A.L. willfully and maliciously injured or damaged any real or
personal property belonging to another person. See
§ 806.13(1)(a), (1)(b)(1), Fla. Stat. (2017). Moreover,
given that this was a wholly circumstantial evidence case, a
determination that the State does not dispute, the State was
also required to present evidence inconsistent with any
reasonable hypothesis of innocence. See M.F., 35
So.3d at 1000; Bronson, 926 So.2d at 482.
prove that A.L. committed petit theft, the State relied on
the statutory inference set forth in section 812.022(2).
Section 812.022(2) provides that "proof of possession of
property recently stolen, unless satisfactorily explained,
gives rise to an inference that the person in possession of
the property knew or should have known that the property had
been stolen." Indeed, "unexplained possession of
stolen property is sufficient to support a burglary
conviction when it occurs as an adjunct to a theft."
Bronson, 926 So.2d at 483 (citing Francis v.
State, 808 So.2d 110, 134 (Fla. 2001)).
the State's case is based entirely upon the statutory
inference set forth in section 812.022(2), the trial court
must direct a judgment of dismissal for the defendant where a
reasonable explanation for possession of recently stolen
property is totally unrefuted and there is no other evidence
of guilt. See Smith v. State, 742 So.2d 352, 355
(Fla. 5th DCA 1999) (citing Coleman v. State, 466
So.2d 395, 397 (Fla. 2d DCA 1985)). The reasonableness of a
defendant's explanation for possession of a stolen item
is a question of fact for the judge in a ...