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White v. State

Florida Court of Appeals, Fifth District

August 2, 2019

KEVIN JASON WHITE, Appellant,
v.
STATE OF FLORIDA, Appellee.

         NOT FINAL UNTIL TIME EXPIRES TO FILE MOTION FOR REHEARING AND DISPOSITION THEREOF IF FILED

          3.800 Appeal from the Circuit Court for Putnam County, Patti A. Christensen, Judge.

          Kevin Jason White, Crestview, pro se.

          No Appearance for Appellee.

          LAMBERT, J.

         Kevin Jason White appeals the postconviction court's denial of his Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.800(a) motion to correct illegal sentence. The court denied the motion for being improperly successive. We affirm, but not for the reason provided by the postconviction court.

         In 2014, following a negotiated plea in two cases, the trial court sentenced White to serve eleven years in prison for trafficking in 4 grams or more of hydrocodone but less than 14 grams, with a three-year mandatory minimum provision. White was also sentenced to serve eleven years in prison for the sale of cocaine, with the sentences running concurrently. No direct appeal was filed in either case.

         White alleged in his present rule 3.800(a) motion that his eleven-year prison sentences are illegal because he should have only been charged with possession of hydrocodone and possession of cocaine, which he asserts are third-degree felonies, punishable by a maximum of five years in prison. The postconviction court reviewed the record below and determined that in 2015, White had unsuccessfully filed "virtually the same motion." It therefore denied the instant motion as successive. The court attached to the present order a copy of the order denying White's prior rule 3.800(a) motion.

         While rule 3.800(a) does not prohibit a defendant from filing successive motions, the doctrine of collateral estoppel precludes a defendant from raising in a successive rule 3.800(a) motion an issue argued and determined in a prior motion. See State v. McBride, 848 So.2d 287, 290-91 (Fla. 2003). Here, the order denying White's earlier rule 3.800(a) motion that was attached to the present denial order shows that White's prior motion was decided on unrelated grounds. Thus, the postconviction court's reasoning for denying White's instant motion was error. Typically, we would reverse and remand for the lower court to address the merits of the motion. However, under the "tipsy coachman" doctrine, an appellate court may affirm a lower court's decision that reaches the right result, but for the wrong reason, so long as there is any basis in the record to affirm the judgment or order. See Rolling v. State, 218 So.3d 911, 912-13 (Fla. 3d DCA 2016) (applying tipsy coachman to affirm an order denying a rule 3.800(a) motion that had been incorrectly denied as successive).

         White's argument for reversal is that the amount of the drugs involved in these two charges, 9.4 grams of hydrocodone and .9 grams of cocaine, is consistent with his personal usage. Thus, he reasons that he could only have been charged with possession of both drugs, which would be third-degree felonies punishable by a maximum of up to five years' incarceration. White's argument is meritless because whether White trafficked in hydrocodone or sold cocaine, as opposed to merely possessing these drugs for personal consumption, is a factual dispute regarding his underlying convictions. A rule 3.800(a) proceeding is not intended to resolve factual disputes. See Nielson v. State, 984 So.2d 587, 590 (Fla. 2d DCA 2008). Rather, the issue to be resolved in such a proceeding is whether, on the face of the record and without an evidentiary hearing, the sentence is "legal." Id. Trafficking in hydrocodone in an amount of 4 grams or more but less than 14 grams is a first-degree felony, punishable by up to thirty years in prison, with a requisite three-year mandatory minimum provision.[1] Sale of cocaine is a second-degree felony, punishable by up to fifteen years in prison.[2] Thus, on the face of our record, White's respective eleven-year prison sentences, with the three-year mandatory minimum provision for the trafficking conviction, are clearly legal.[3]

         AFFIRMED.

          COHEN and SASSO, JJ., concur.

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