final until disposition of timely filed motion for rehearing.
appeal from the Circuit Court for Miami-Dade County, Lower
Tribunal No. 17-9924 Marisa Tinkler Mendez, Judge.
J. Martinez, Public Defender, and James Odell, Assistant
Public Defender, for appellant.
Moody, Attorney General, and Brian H. Zack, Assistant
Attorney General, for appellee.
EMAS, C.J., and FERNANDEZ, and MILLER, JJ.
Willie Sims, challenges his conviction and sentence for
burglary of an unoccupied conveyance, in violation of section
810.02(4)(b), Florida Statutes (2019). On appeal, Sims
contends the lower tribunal reversibly erred in excluding
testimony Sims was purportedly known to be homeless and
restricting the scope of voir dire. For the reasons set forth
below, we find no error and affirm.
AND LOWER COURT PROCEEDINGS
21, 2017, at approximately 3:30 a.m., while patrolling a
residential neighborhood, Sergeant Paul Rodriguez of the
South Miami Police Department observed an illuminated dome
light in a pickup truck parked outside of a private
residence. Rodriguez approached the vehicle and encountered
Sims, partially concealed within the vehicle and dressed
entirely in dark clothing. Sims was rifling through various
papers located on the driver's seat.
owner of the vehicle was alerted and confirmed that Sims did
not have permission to enter his truck. He further attested
his items had been ransacked. Sims was arrested and an
ensuing search yielded a knife and cash. Sims confessed to
burglarizing the vehicle,
12, 2017, Sims was charged by information with one count of
burglary of an unoccupied conveyance. The case was scheduled
for trial before a jury. During voir dire, outside of the
presence of the prospective jurors, the defense informed the
court that Sims was known to the arresting officer as "a
car burglar," and sought to exclude any reference to
past arrests or the recovery of the knife or cash at trial.
The court granted the motion.
defense queried the potential jurors concerning their
feelings regarding homelessness. The State objected, and the
court convened a sidebar conference. The defense proffered
Sims was seeking refuge within the vehicle. Therefore, he
lacked the requisite state of mind to commit burglary and was
guilty of only a trespass. The defense further apprised the
court that law enforcement officers knew Sims to be homeless,
from prior encounters.
lower tribunal sustained the objection, as it determined the
asserted defense was grounded upon a lack of intent, rather
than financial status. Hence, it concluded that any minimally
probative value derived from informing the factfinders that
Sims was homeless was vastly outweighed by the highly
prejudicial effect of such testimony.
was empaneled. In opening statement, the defense asserted
Sims had "fallen on hard times," thus, he was
merely seeking shelter within the vehicle. Later, the defense
highlighted Sims's unkempt appearance upon his arrest. In
closing argument, the defense reminded the jury that, on the
evening in question, as the result of poverty, Sims was
attired in ...