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Jeansimon v. State

Florida Court of Appeals, Second District

July 31, 2019

LOUCRUCHA JEANSIMON, Appellant,
v.
STATE OF FLORIDA, Appellee.

         NOT FINAL UNTIL TIME EXPIRES TO FILE REHEARING MOTION AND, IF FILED, DETERMINED

          Appeal from the Circuit Court for Pinellas County; Joseph A. Bulone, Judge.

          Howard L. Dimmig, II, Public Defender, and Thomas Matthew McLaughlin, Special Assistant Public Defender, Bartow, for Appellant.

          Ashley Moody, Attorney General, Tallahassee, and Jeffrey H. Siegal, Assistant Attorney General, Tampa, for Appellee.

          MORRIS, JUDGE.

         Loucrucha Jeansimon appeals his convictions, after a jury trial in 2017, for several drug offenses: trafficking in hydromorphone, possession of alprazolam, possession of oxycodone, possession of clonazepam, possession of cocaine, and resisting an officer without violence.[1] Jeansimon raises several issues on appeal, two of which have merit. One requires reversal for a new trial, and the other requires a new hearing on his motion to suppress.

         Jeansimon was stopped by police at a gas station in St. Petersburg based on a report that the car he was driving, a black Camaro, had been seen by police running a stop sign. An officer pulled his cruiser up to the Camaro, which was parked at a gas pump. Jeansimon was standing by the car when the officer approached Jeansimon and asked for his license, but Jeansimon denied that he had been driving the car. According to police, Jeansimon then used a key fob to remotely lock the doors to the car. Jeansimon began to walk away from the officer and around the car, and believing that Jeansimon was either about to run or get back into the car, the officer grabbed him. Jeansimon threw the keys to a female standing nearby and called out for someone to "call his people." Jeansimon was placed in the back of a police cruiser.

         Police learned that the Camaro was owned by Hertz and had been rented by a third party. Police decided that the car would be impounded and began an inventory search. Drugs were found in a cup located in the front center console.

         Prior to trial, Jeansimon filed a motion to suppress any evidence found in the rental car because no probable cause supported his arrest, no probable cause or legal basis existed to search the vehicle, no consent to search was obtained, and the search was not a valid inventory search. The State filed a motion to strike Jeansimon's motion to suppress, claiming that Jeansimon lacked standing to challenge the search of the car because he was not an authorized driver of the rental car, citing Cooper v. State, 162 So.3d 15 (Fla. 1st DCA 2014).

         At the hearing on the motions, the parties agreed that Jeansimon was driving a rental car, that he was not an authorized driver on the rental agreement, that he had not used his credit card to rent the car, and that no other passengers were in the car at the time of his encounter with police. Defense counsel argued that Jeansimon had standing to challenge the search because he was in possession of the car at the time of the stop. The court ruled that under Cooper, the only Florida case on the issue, Jeansimon did not have standing. The trial court did not take evidence or address the bases for suppression raised in Jeansimon's motion.

         On appeal, Jeansimon argues that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress the drug evidence found in the rental car and that a recent supreme court decision, Byrd v. United States, 138 S.Ct. 1518 (2018), holds that an unauthorized driver of a rental car has standing to challenge a search of that rental car. He contends that Byrd applies because his case was in the "pipeline" when Byrd was decided.

         In Cooper, the case relied on by the trial court in denying Jeansimon's motion to suppress, the First District held that even though the driver of the rental car was given permission to drive the car by the authorized renter, the driver did not have standing to challenge a search of the car because the driver was not authorized by the owner-the rental company-to drive the car. 162 So.3d at 17-18. "The mere fact that an unauthorized driver of a rental car obtained permission from the renter is insufficient, by itself, to create an objectively reasonable expectation of privacy." Id. at 18.

         However, in 2018 the Supreme Court "granted certiorari to address the question whether a driver has a reasonable expectation of privacy in a rental car when he or she is not listed as an authorized driver on the rental agreement." Byrd, 138 S.Ct. at 1523-24. The Court held "that, as a general rule, someone in otherwise lawful possession and control of a rental car has a reasonable expectation of privacy in it even if the rental agreement does not list him or her as an authorized driver." Id. at 1524. "[T]he mere fact that a driver in lawful possession or control of a rental car is not listed on the rental agreement will not defeat his or her otherwise reasonable expectation of privacy." Id. at 1531.

         This case is controlled by Byrd. The trial court ruled that because Jeansimon was not an authorized driver of the rental car, he did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the car so as to challenge the search of the car. Byrd now clearly holds otherwise. There was no indication that Jeansimon was not in lawful possession and control of the rental car, only that he was not an authorized driver under the rental agreement. Under Byrd, Jeansimon had a reasonable expectation of privacy in the rental car and thus standing to challenge the search of the rental car. And Byrd is applicable here because this case was in the pipeline at the time that Byrd was decided. See Mitchell v. Moore, 786 So.2d 521, 529 (Fla. 2001) ("Normally, a new rule which is not a fundamental change in the law, but merely an evolutionary refinement is generally applied prospectively to most cases, retrospectively to certain nonfinal cases ('pipeline' cases), but never to final cases."); Clay v. Prudential Ins. Co. of Am., ...


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