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State v. Quintanilla

Florida Court of Appeals, Third District

July 10, 2019

The State of Florida, Appellant,
v.
Jose Quintanilla, Appellee.

         Not final until disposition of timely filed motion for rehearing.

          An appeal from a non-final order the Circuit Court for Miami-Dade County, Milton Hirsch, Judge Lower Tribunal No. 11-25683 .

          Ashley Moody, Attorney General, and Gabrielle Raemy Charest-Turken, Assistant Attorney General, for appellant.

          Carlos J. Martinez, Public Defender, and Howard K. Blumberg, Special Assistant Public Defender, and Gabrielle McCabe and Manon Ferdani, Certified Legal Interns, for appellee.

          Before FERNANDEZ, LOGUE, and MILLER, JJ.

          MILLER, J.

         The State of Florida appeals the trial court's order suppressing evidence of Jose Quintanilla's blood alcohol analysis garnered pursuant to a compulsory blood draw under section 316.1933, Florida Statutes (2019). The State contends the trial court erroneously elevated the standard of proof required to conduct a compelled blood draw under the Fourth Amendment and improvidently imported into the blood draw statute an additional element of driver fault. For the following reasons, we reverse.

         FACTS

         Shortly before midnight on December 2, 2010, appellee, Jose Quintanilla, was operating a chassis cab truck with an attached cargo box, in rural, unincorporated Miami-Dade County. While negotiating a left-hand turn at a four-way intersection governed by a traffic control signal, Quintanilla collided with a significantly smaller sedan. The driver of the sedan was rendered unconscious and would later succumb to injuries suffered in the crash. Her passenger was ejected from the vehicle and was seriously injured.

         Lieutenant Henry Suarez arrived first to the crash scene. He and two other responding officers detected the strong odor of an alcoholic beverage emanating from Quintanilla's breath. Additionally, they noticed Quintanilla appeared unnaturally "limber" and "fluid," and his eyes were "bloodshot" and "watery." Hence, they contacted Officer Mark Slimak, a twenty-one-year veteran of the Miami-Dade Police Department specially trained in alcohol-related investigations, to conduct a further probe.

         Slimak arrived shortly thereafter and was briefed by Suarez and the other officers on their observations regarding Quintanilla's odor, demeanor, and appearance. He was also informed that Quintanilla was the driver of the truck involved in the crash. Slimak scrutinized the scene of the accident and ascertained from paramedics on the scene the critical nature of the injuries sustained by the occupants of the sedan.[1]

         Slimak attempted to interview Quintanilla, however, a language barrier prevented meaningful discourse. Nonetheless, Quintanilla confirmed he was the driver. At that time, Slimak, himself, detected the odor of an alcoholic beverage coming from Quintanilla's breath and observed that Quintanilla's eyes were bloodshot and watery. As paramedics prepared to transport Quintanilla to a medical facility for accident-related injuries, Slimak ordered the treating paramedic to perform a warrantless, nonconsensual blood draw on Quintanilla, pursuant to section 316.1933, Florida Statutes.

         The State ultimately charged Quintanilla with one count of driving under the influence ("DUI") manslaughter, in violation of section 316.193(3)(c)(3), Florida Statutes, and one count of driving under the influence resulting in serious bodily injury, in violation of section 316.193(3)(c)(2), Florida Statutes. Thereafter, Quintanilla sought suppression of the blood alcohol test results, contending the warrantless, compelled withdrawal of blood violated the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and section 316.1933(1)(a), Florida Statutes. Specifically, Quintanilla asserted Slimak lacked probable cause to believe Quintanilla was driving under the influence or that he caused the accident. The lower tribunal conducted an evidentiary hearing on the merits of the suppression motion.

         At the hearing, Slimak testified as to Quintanilla's odor of alcoholic beverage, unsteady gait, and bloodshot, watery eyes. Slimak explained that he was made aware of the extent of the injuries of those involved in the crash. He then offered his observations regarding the scene:

[T]his particular intersection is a four-way intersection. It's governed by a traffic light in all directions. Upon my arrival the box truck was, the final resting place was in a southwesterly direction, or facing south as if it was making a left-hand-turn in the southbound direction onto 147 Avenue. The ...

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