3 Common Defenses against DUI Arrests in Florida
Before a criminal trial is even on the cards, a DUI arrest can be challenged on administrative, constitutional, or legal grounds. If successful, such challenges could result in the state’s evidence being thrown out, leaving the prosecution with no way to proceed with the case against you.
The right legal strategies for your case will depend on the circumstances surrounding your arrest. A criminal defense attorney can investigate the arrest to look for any signs of improper conduct such as inaccurate investigative methods, incorrect breathalyzer usage, and other errors. As the State needs to build a watertight case against you to secure a conviction, identifying and attacking a single weak link could be all you need to reinstate your license and avoid the other penalties
Let’s take a look at a few common defenses against a DUI arrest in Florida:
1. Illegal Traffic Stop
In Florida, officers can only make a lawful police stop if they have “probable cause”. Simply put, the officer must have evidence to show that the motorist was breaking the law or committing a traffic infraction—they cannot act on a hunch or stop you for an arbitrary reason. As such, if it can be shown that the law enforcement officer was mistaken in their reason for stopping a motorist, all of the evidence obtained as a result of the illegal stop could be suppressed and the case dismissed.
There is, however, an exception to this rule. Florida courts have ruled that sobriety checkpoints are a lawful method of controlling drunk driving. Fortunately, these checkpoints are governed by strict protocols, so if your attorney is able to demonstrate that officers deviated from these regulations, any evidence gathered during this stop may be suppressed.
2. Improper Field Sobriety Tests
Before arresting a suspected drunk driver, law enforcement officers will often administer Field Sobriety Tests (FST) to determine whether the motorist is impaired. These can include balance tests such as the one-leg stand and walk and turn, in addition to vision tests such as the horizontal gaze nystagmus.
As many factors such as age, stress, disability, illness, and other external conditions can affect your performance during these tests, inaccurate results are all too common. For instance, if you have a bad back or a condition affecting your knees, you may appear to be under the influence when completing the walk and turn test.
Additionally, some officers aren’t qualified to perform specific tests, possibly invalidating the results of these FSTs. A skilled Florida DUI defense attorney can assess your case to determine whether such tests were performed improperly and may be able to help develop strategies to challenge the results.
3. Inadmissible Breath Test Results
Breathalyzer machines are not only subject to strict regulations and maintenance requirements, but testing must also be done in a specific manner to ensure the results are admissible as evidence. For instance, if the device wasn’t correctly calibrated prior to conducting the breath test, the results may be ruled inadmissible. Other reasons that breath results might be suppressed can include:
- Officers failed to read—or incorrectly communicated—Florida’s Implied Consent Law;
- Officers did not calibrate the machine in accordance with the state’s regulations prior to conducting the breath test;
- The device was malfunctioning prior to the test but the State did not take adequate steps to examine and repair it;
- The second breath sample was taken more than 15 minutes after the first; or
- The officer who conducted the test did not have a valid breath test operator permit.
Schedule a Free Case Review with a DUI Defense Attorney in Florida
If you were arrested for driving under the influence, it’s important to remember that nothing is ever set in stone. A skilled criminal defense attorney may be able to challenge the State’s case and have your charges reduced—or even dropped.
Todd Kawecki has helped clients in Port St. Lucie and across Florida navigate proceedings and achieve favorable outcomes in their cases. Dial 772-485-4500 or head over to our Contact Page to schedule a free initial consultation.