Florida Case Law

MONZON v. STATE, 2D05-5711 (Fla.App. 2 Dist. 1-5-2007)
EDGAR MONZON, Appellant, v. STATE OF FLORIDA, Appellee. No.
2D05-5711. District Court of Appeal of Florida, Second
District. Opinion filed January 5, 2007.

Appeal from the Circuit Court for Manatee County, Edward
Nicholas, Judge.

James Marion Moorman, Public Defender, and Richard P.
Albertine, Jr., Assistant Public Defender, Bartow, for

Bill McCollum, Attorney General, Tallahassee, and Susan D.
Dunlevy, Assistant Attorney General, Tampa, for Appellee.

with opinion,




ALTENBERND, Judge, Concurring.

On April 20, 2005, Edgar Monzon was driving to work around
6 a.m. in his truck. He is a carpenter and was employed by
Carpenter Constructors of America as a foreman. The truck
he was driving was a company truck.

For some reason, Mr. Monzon was momentarily inattentive to
traffic conditions. When a pickup truck in front of his
truck slowed and put on its turn signal, Mr. Monzon ran
into the back of that truck. A young man was riding without
any safety restraint in the bed of the pickup truck. He was
thrown from the vehicle and died as a result of this

Under normal circumstances, Mr. Monzon would have received
a traffic ticket and this matter would have been turned
over to the insurance carrier for Carpenter Constructors of
America. The matter either would have been settled or would
have resulted in a civil suit.

But Mr. Monzon did not have a driver’s license. As a
result, he was charged with driving without a license
resulting in death. See § 322.34(6)(a), Fla. Stat.
(2005). The legislature has designated this offense to be a
third-degree felony. Id. Third-degree felonies are
generally subject to no more than five years’ imprisonment,
see § 775.082(3)(d), Fla. Stat. (2005). The offense
itself calls for only twenty-eight points on a sentencing
scoresheet. See § 921.0022(3), Fla. Stat. (2005)
(classifying driving without a license resulting in death
as a “level 5” offense). Mr. Monzon had no prior offenses
and thus no other points for offenses on his scoresheet.

Pursuant to section 921.0024(1)(a), Mr. Monzon’s scoresheet
also included 120 victim injury points based upon the death
that resulted from the accident. This resulted in a
sentencing scoresheet that required a lowest permissible
prison sentence of ninety months or 7Ë? years. See §
921.0024(2) (providing in part, “If the lowest permissible
sentence under the code exceeds the statutory maximum
sentence . . . the sentence required by the code must be
imposed”). The trial court imposed the ninety-month
sentence, but made it clear that it was doing so only
because the legislature mandated this sentence.

Mr. Monzon unquestionably was driving without a license,
and his negligent driving contributed to the young man’s
death. As a result, the jury convicted him of this offense
and we have no basis to override that lawful verdict or the
sentence required under the applicable statutes.

If Mr. Monzon had lost his license because he was a drunk
or a bad driver, I would have no sympathy for him in this
case. If he had never bothered to take the test to get the
license that Florida offered to him for a nominal price, I
would not write this special concurrence.

But Mr. Monzon is an undocumented alien. He came here
fifteen years ago from Guatemala. This middle-aged man
lived with his wife, who is a United States citizen, and
supported her two children as well as his son and family
back in Guatemala. He has never been in trouble with the
law. Numerous people came to his sentencing hearing to
testify without contradiction that he is a responsible and
contributing member of his community, albeit not a citizen.

Because he does not have resident alien status, Mr. Monzon
cannot lawfully obtain a Florida driver’s license.[fn1] See
§ 322.08(2)(c). If he had attempted to apply for a
Florida driver’s license in this era of heightened
terrorist security, he may have risked deportation.
Ironically, because he had no license and risked
deportation, he had reason to drive more carefully than
other drivers.

Mr. Monzon was employed by a large corporation. His
employer provided the vehicle apparently without
determining Mr. Monzon’s immigration status or that he had
no Florida driver’s license. He went to jail; the
corporation went looking for a new foreman.

I do not intend to debate the wisdom of federal immigration
policy. Whether the United States government should deport
a man like Mr. Monzon is not the issue. Rather, the issue
here is the public policies of the state of Florida and
whether the Florida Statutes further those policies.
Taxpayers will spend in excess of $150,000 to imprison a
good carpenter and a good husband. Meanwhile, we will
probably need to provide financial support to his wife and
family in this state, while his family in Guatemala will
also suffer. The Florida Legislature, I suspect
inadvertently, has thus decided to spend substantial
Florida resources to imprison Mr. Monzon for an act that is
simple negligence, aggravated only by his decision years
ago to enter this country in violation of federal law.

I do not question that the family of the victim in this
case mourns the loss of a good, young man. The same is true
for all family members of people who die in automobile
accidents. But Florida has never made negligent operation
of a motor vehicle resulting in death a crime. To make it a
crime merely because the driver is in this country in
violation of federal immigration laws establishes a law that
seems to me to be unsupported by any Florida public policy
that could justify this use of state resources. The
legislature ought to consider an amendment that fine-tunes
these statutes.

[fn1] He apparently obtained a driver’s license at an
earlier time in North Carolina, but it has expired. He did
not risk attempting to obtain a license in this state when
he arrived here.