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Jones v. State

Florida Court of Appeals, Fifth District

September 20, 2019



          Appeal from the Circuit Court for Orange County, Keith F. White, Judge.

          Paula C. Coffman, Orlando, for Appellant.

          Ashley Moody, Attorney General, Tallahassee, and Nora Hutchinson Hall, Assistant Attorney General, Daytona Beach, for Appellee.

          LAMBERT, J.

         The defendant, Phillip Jones, pled nolo contendere to charges of trafficking in twenty-eight grams or more of cocaine, fleeing or attempting to elude a law enforcement officer, carrying a concealed firearm, and resisting an officer without violence, reserving the right to appeal the trial court's denial of his dispositive motion to suppress law enforcement's stop of his motor vehicle and its subsequent warrantless search of the vehicle. The court accepted Jones's plea and imposed the negotiated sentences. On appeal, Jones argues, as he did below, that the police officers lacked jurisdiction to stop the vehicle he was driving and that none of the exceptions for conducting the warrantless search of his car were applicable, thus violating his Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable searches and seizures.[1] As we explain in seriatim, we find no error in the court's ruling regarding the stop of the vehicle. As to the warrantless search, we conclude that Jones has failed to fully preserve error. Accordingly, we affirm Jones's convictions.

         TRAFFIC STOP-

         Based upon the testimony presented at the suppression hearing, Jones, who was the sole occupant of his car, was traveling westbound on North Lane in Orlando, Florida, approaching the intersection with North Pine Hills Road. At the time, Officer Jiminez of the City of Orlando Police Department observed Jones making a right turn on a red light at this intersection without coming to a complete stop. Jiminez put on his blue lights and siren to effectuate a traffic stop. Jones, however, did not stop. Instead, he accelerated northbound onto North Pine Hills Road, which, at this point, is located in unincorporated Orange County.[2] Jiminez would later testify at the suppression hearing that in lieu of engaging in a high-speed chase that would possibly violate departmental policy, he instead transmitted a GPS tracker from the front of his unmarked patrol car by pushing a button inside his car that "shoots out a dart that has glue on the front side of it and it attaches to the rear of the [pursued] vehicle; basically tracks it."

         Once the GPS tracker was affixed to Jones's vehicle, Jiminez put out an alert over his police radio to other officers in the area describing the vehicle and its direction of travel, its tag number, and a description of the driver. Approximately ten minutes later, Jiminez learned that the vehicle had stopped. Jones would testify that he drove his car to his girlfriend's house in unincorporated Orange County, parked in the driveway, and then locked the car as he exited. As will be discussed below in more detail, Jones was detained by law enforcement not far from his vehicle.

         In his motion to suppress, Jones asserted that his actions both at the intersection of North Lane and North Pine Hills Road and then driving to his girlfriend's home all occurred outside the city limits of Orlando. Thus, as he argued below and argues here, when the Orlando police officers pursued him, [3] they were outside their jurisdiction and resultingly lacked the authority to stop and later search his vehicle. Generally speaking, a county or municipal police officer has no official authority to arrest an offender outside the boundaries of the officer's county or municipality. See Huebner v. State, 731 So.2d 40, 44 (Fla. 4th DCA 1999). However, under what is known as the "fresh pursuit" exception, an officer is allowed to pursue a fleeing suspect, even though the suspect crosses jurisdictional lines, provided that the officer had legally sufficient grounds to detain or arrest the suspect before he or she left the jurisdiction. See § 901.25(1)–(2), Fla. Stat. (2017); Porter v. State, 765 So.2d 76, 78 (Fla. 4th DCA 2000).[4]

         The dispositive question of Officer Jiminez's authority to pursue Jones into unincorporated Orange County turns on whether Jones's failure to come to a complete stop at the red light at this intersection before turning right occurred within the boundaries of the city.[5] If it did, Jiminez could properly pursue Jones into Orange County. Our resolution of this issue on appeal rests solely on where Jones was required to stop his vehicle at the intersection for the red light before properly turning right.

         Jones argues that, based on the configuration of the intersection, he first needed to enter into the intersection to ascertain if he was able to safely turn right and that, in doing so, his actions in allegedly failing to come to a complete stop before turning occurred on North Pine Hills Road, outside the city limits. Jones reasons that his right turn, even if improper, was committed in unincorporated Orange County, resulting in Officer Jiminez lacking the authority to stop him for this traffic infraction. The evidence presented at the suppression hearing does not support this argument.

         Section 316.075, Florida Statutes (2017), answers the jurisdictional question. This section states, in pertinent part:

[W]henever traffic, including municipal traffic, is controlled by traffic control signals exhibiting different colored lights, or colored lighted arrows, successively one at a time or in combination, only the colors green, red, and yellow shall be used, except for special pedestrian signals carrying a word legend, and the ...

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