What many people don’t know about DUI traffic law in Florida is that the majority of the arguments about whether or not a DUI is valid hinges on the legitimacy of the initial stop. In Florida, DUI laws allow police officers to stop drivers only under certain circumstances, and if those circumstances are not present when a driver is stopped, even if that driver is intoxicated and charged with a DUI, then it’s very possible that those charges will not hold up in court.
This is a complex issue, so whether you’re certain or not over the validity of the stop, speak with a Broward DUI defense attorney who has handled Florida DUI cases that were dependent on the legitimacy of the initial stop.
What Determines the Legitimacy of a DUI Stop
A police officer or law enforcement agent may stop a vehicle only if the officer has reasonable suspicion or probable cause to do so, such as the belief that the driver violated a traffic law or some other law.
The burden of proof for “reasonable suspicion” is much lower than the standard for “probable cause” – probable cause is defined as an instance in which the holistic understanding of facts that were known to the officer at the time of the stop or arrest were such that any reasonable person would believe an offense has been committed.
Reasonable suspicion, however, is slightly better than a hunch. In Florida, as in other states, the exact standard of reasonable suspicion, particularly as it pertains to DUI stops, is still hotly contested by proponents of either side. For example, weaving inside a single lane has been determined not to be sufficient for a traffic stop.
Furthermore, in the event that a driver is weaving in between separate lanes, the failure to stay in one lane must in some way impact surrounding traffic. No matter how many times a driver goes over the center line or drifts into another lane, if it’s demonstrable that the drift was not significant and did not impact any other vehicles, then a DUI stop is inappropriate.
When You’ve Been Unlawfully Stopped and Arrested for a Florida DUI
If you’ve been arrested and charged with a DUI after an invalid stop, it’s possible your charges could be dismissed on those grounds. In order for an arrest to be prosecutable and legitimate, all of the evidence that supports the arrest or that was used in the officer’s process of making a stop, conducting an investigation, and leveling charges must be within the constitutional auspices both in the state of Florida and at the federal level.
When a police officer violates protocol and makes an illegal stop, even if it’s done out of ignorance or without malice, the charges that result typically are dismissed unless some other evidence that would have legitimized the stop is produced. Although this may seem like a clear enough issue, it is anything but, and you will need a dedicated, passionate and hard-working attorney who has handled cases similar to yours and will responsibly navigate you through this trying and difficult time in your life.