Typically, a DUI investigation begins with a traffic stop, whether due to some infraction like speeding, or as a result of a checkpointwhere officers are stopping most if not every vehicle. In some cases, a DUI investigation begins because there has been a traffic accident, whether or not the person being investigated is at fault.
What happens during a DUI investigation in Fort Lauderdale, Florida? When an officer first makes contact with you, he or she is trained to make certain observations to determine whether further investigation is warranted. This includes:
- how you answer the officer’s questions
- how you smell
- how you look
- how quickly and smoothly you are able to provide your driver’s license, registration and proof of insurance.
If the officer is suspicious, or just going fishing, you can expect questions about where you were prior to the stop and where you are heading. The officer is looking for details that suggest you were at a place were drinking is common, such as a sporting event, party, bar, or nightclub. The officer is also looking to see if your story makes sense. If you are coming from a nightclub, this will likely count against you. If you tell the officer that you are heading to a certain location and you are traveling in the opposite direction, this will count against you because it seems to indicate lies or confusion.
The officer will also be observing whether you have tell-tale signs of alcohol consumption, such as:
- bloodshot eyes
- slurred speech
- the odor of alcohol on your breath.
How does the State of Florida attempt to establish this? A person may have bloodshot eyes, slurred speech, and the odor of alcohol on them, but by itself this only tends to establish that a person has consumed alcohol, not that they are impaired. Consumption followed by driving is of no legal consequence without impairment.
The State handles this problem in a number of ways. First, an officer will ask you to step out of vehicle and request that you perform a number of roadside sobriety exercises. They really wanted to call these tests, but they can’t because these are far too inaccurate to be called tests, and even if you do well, you will likely “fail.” What the state says is that they are a series of investigative tools that allegedly help an officer determine if a person is impaired. While this may be true in a limited number of cases, more commonly these exercises are nothing more than a dog and pony show that help police show that a person is impaired, even if they are not.
The reason for this unfortunate result comes down to the exercises themselves and the way they are administered. By the time a motorist encounters an officer that requests roadside exercises like the finger to nose, or the walk and turn, or the one leg stand, that officer has performed the exercises hundreds of even thousands of times. The motorist, on the other hand, is given a peculiar set of instructions, once, in a highly stressful situation, asked to perform a strange set of actions not present elsewhere in everyday life, and then marked off for every single deviation from the officer’s instructions.
In school for instance if you got 60% correct on a test, that would be a passing score. 70% would be average. 80% would be pretty good. 90% would get you an A. But in the loaded game of roadside sobriety exercises, every single mistake, no matter how small, will be recited against you on police reports and in court to show that you were impaired. Have a balance problem so that standing on one leg is a problem? No problem, this must mean you are drunk. Have a hip problem so maybe you leave small gaps in your steps on the walk and turn? You just did 20 things wrong, each one of which will be used to say that you were impaired. The officers are trained to recite and document every single deviation from their instructions, and not what you did right. The same level of accuracy that would have you receive a passing grade in school will likely get you arrested instead.
After you complete the roadside sobriety exercises, you will then likely to be asked to complete a breath test. If you submit, and blow over .08, that is enough to show that you were physically impaired under the law. If you refuse to submit, they will likely arrest you and then use that refusal against you in court to say you must be guilty. Refuse more than once, well they can charge you with a separate criminal offense for that. If you blow, and you blow under the limit, the officer may then turn around a request a urine sample, claiming you must be on drugs. If you are in a serious accident, they can take your blood without your consent. If they claim that breath or urine is not practical under the circumstances, they can request a blood test from you as well.
It is important to note, that you may legally refuse to submit to roadside exercises or a breath/urine test. There are no penalties just for refusing the exercises. Refusing the breath urine or blood test will get your license suspended. However, without this evidence, police will be left with your driving pattern and the officer’s observations of you alone in order to try and establish impairment. While your driver’s license may be taken for a period by refusing, you may benefit from not allowing the State to collect this evidence against you, an advantage that can pay dividends later at trial.
For more information about DUI in general or a DUI case you have been arrested for, consulting with a lawyer can be very beneficial. In Florida, if a traffic stop or subsequent DUI investigation is in violation of an individual’s constitutional rights, an otherwise difficult case of DUI may be thrown out by the Court as part of the Court granting a Motion to Suppress. Without obtaining legal representation, you may be giving up crucial rights that in certain cases can result in a dismissal.
For a free consultation to determine the facts, circumstances, and defenses available in your particular situation, contact the Law Offices of Eric A. Kay, at 954-330-8994, or view our website at http://AttorneysMiami.FL.com We look forward to hearing from you.