In Bowers v. State of Florida, the Florida Second District Court of Appeals recently affirmed a county court’s ruling that suppressed all evidence obtained during the search of a driver’s vehicle during a Florida Driving Under the Influence (DUI) stop. This ruling was based on the fact that the police officer that initiated the vehicle stop did not attend the hearing on the motion to suppress. Thus, the only evidence that the State of Florida presented to meet its burden of proving the validity of the Florida DUI stop was through the hearsay testimony of the DUI officer that was not present during the initial stop of the vehicle.
The Florida Second District Court of Appeals ruled differently than the Fourth District Court of Appeals did in a similar case. In Ferrer v. State, 785 So. 2d 709, the court allowed hearsay evidence to support probable cause for a Florida DUI stop although the state attorney failed to call the officer that initially stopped the vehicle. The Fourth District Court of Appeals held that such evidence was admissible due to the fellow officer rule.
Therefore, the Second and Fourth District Courts of Appeal are in conflict. It should be interesting to see if this Florida DUI case makes it to the Florida Supreme Court based on such conflict. Since the First District Court of Appeal has not ruled upon this issue, I do not know what position a Jacksonville Florida court would take if confronted with similar facts in a Jacksonville DUI case. However, it would make more sense for a Jacksonville court to follow the Second District Court of Appeals based upon the fact that the fellow officer rule is not an exception to the hearsay rule. Therefore, the court should not allow such evidence to be admitted.