NAPLES DUI LAW – When can you be arrested for DUI in Florida?

NAPLES DUI LAW – When can you be arrested for DUI in Florida?

In order to arrest for DUI in Florida, an officer must have probable cause that a crime was committed.  The Florida courts have held that “Probable cause for a DUI arrest must be based upon more than a belief that a driver has consumed alcohol; it must arise from facts and circumstances that show a probability that a driver is impaired by alcohol or has an unlawful amount of alcohol in his system.” State v. Kliphouse, 771 So. 2d 16, 22 (Fla. 4th DCA 2000).  Obviously, someone may also be convicted of DUI if they are under the influence of a controlled substance; DUIs are not just limited to alcohol.

The odor of alcohol is an important factor in determining probable cause for DUI but it is certainly not the sole factor.  In other words, the odor of alcohol without other indicators of impairment such as bloodshot eyes or slurred speech is not enough for probable cause for a DUI arrest.  It is not illegal to consume alcohol and to drive so long as the driver is not impaired; after all, most bars do have parking spaces.

The courts have further outlined the three circumstances in which an officer can have probable cause to arrest a person for misdemeanor DUI: 1) the officer witnesses each element of a prima facie case (the officer witnesses all of the elements of a DUI), 2) the officer is investigating an accident and develops probable cause to arrest for DUI, or 3) one officer calls upon another for assistance and the combined observations of the two or more officers are united to establish probable cause for the arrest.

The elements of DUI in Florida consist of the following:

1)   The person drove or was in actual physical control of a vehicle, and

2)   While driving or in actual physical control of the vehicle,  the person was under the influence of an alcoholic beverage or a chemical or a controlled substance to the extent that his/her normal faculties were impaired, or had a blood/breath alcohol level of .08 or more grams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood/210 liters of breath.

Basically, this means that a law enforcement officer must witness each element of the offense unless another officer witnessed some of the elements or there was a crash where the officer’s investigation leads to probable cause.  For example, one officer could pull someone over for speeding (meaning he/she witnessed the element of driving) and then a backup officer notices that the driver is impaired by alcohol (meaning the backup officer witnesses the element of impairment).  The combined observations of law enforcement provides the basis for probable cause for the DUI arrest.

If an officer arrests a driver for DUI without first establishing probable cause, it may be possible for a Florida DUI lawyer to suppress evidence gathered subsequent to the unlawful arrest.  This can sometimes lead to dismissal of the case.

Juan Ecobar

Florida DUI Lawyer

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