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Davis v. Gilchrist County Sheriff's Office

Florida Court of Appeals, First District

September 25, 2019

Jefferson Eugene Davis, Appellant,
v.
Gilchrist County Sheriff's Office, Appellee.

         Not final until disposition of any timely and authorized motion under Fla. R. App. P. 9.330 or 9.331.

          On appeal from the Circuit Court for Gilchrist County. Monica J. Brasington, Judge.

          Robert L. Case of Stovash, Case & Tingley, P.A., Orlando; Stephen K. Miller of Law Offices of Stephen K. Miller, P.A., Gainesville, for Appellant.

          Lindsey B. Lander, Trenton, for Appellee.

          Sharrit, Michael S., Associate Judge.

         In the aftermath of the infamous Parkland shooting, the legislature enacted section 790.401, Florida Statutes (2018), (otherwise known as "The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act, " Chapter 2018-3, Laws of Florida). The recently enacted "red flag" statute requires courts to proactively remove firearms from individuals (upon petitions filed by law enforcement agencies) who pose a significant danger to themselves or others.

         In this case of first impression, the Gilchrist County Sheriff's Office, believing one of its own deputies, Appellant, Jefferson Davis had become a danger, filed a petition with the trial court, seeking a risk protection order (RPO) and removal of his firearms. Upon reviewing the petition, the Court below issued a temporary ex parte RPO and, in accordance with the statute's protocol, scheduled an evidentiary hearing.

         Following a hearing and a determination that Appellant had expressed homicidal ideation and an overt desire to shoot a fellow officer, the trial court issued the amended RPO now under review.

         Appellant raises three issues on appeal. First, he argues the trial court misapplied the statute and asserts there was insufficient evidence to support the RPO. Second, he asserts the trial court deprived him of due process, and third, he contends the statute is unconstitutional. We address each issue separately below.

         The Statute

         The RPO statute provides in pertinent part:

Upon notice and a hearing on the matter, if the court finds by clear and convincing evidence that the respondent poses a significant danger of causing personal injury to himself or herself or others by having in his or her custody or control, or by purchasing, possessing, or receiving, a firearm or any ammunition, the court must issue a risk protection order for a period that it deems appropriate, up to and including but not exceeding 12 months.

§ 790.401(3)(b), Fla. Stat.

         Factual Findings

         The events underlying the RPO and factual findings made by the trial court may be summarized as follows:

         The Appellant and his long-time girlfriend were both employed as Gilchrist County Sheriff's Officers. Suspicious of infidelity and an ongoing affair with another officer, the Appellant, while off-duty, confronted his girlfriend at her assigned duty station. The Appellant became belligerent, exhibited a hostile demeanor and threatened a bystander-fellow officer who attempted to intervene. He punched and damaged a solid wood door and a filing cabinet, and inexplicably fell to the floor. In a moment of apparent reflection, the Appellant reached out to his supervisor (the Gilchrist County Sheriff) via text message, requested his help and warned that "something bad was going to happen." Thereafter, in a private meeting, the Appellant told the Sheriff he wanted to kill his girlfriend's paramour. He stated he "want[ed] to shoot him in the face, eat his food, and wait for [law enforcement] to pick me up.'' Upon further inquiry, Appellant told the Sheriff he would utilize his police issued gun located in his car. Shortly ...


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