In a single recent year, there were nearly 1,300 DUI arrests in Broward County, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. If you’re one of those who has been arrested for driving under the influence in South Florida, there are many strategies that an experienced Fort Lauderdale DUI lawyer may employ to help you successfully challenge the charges.
Of course, it always comes down to the unique circumstances – and these should be discussed with your defense lawyer as soon as possible after an arrest.
That said, some of the approaches we find often gaining traction with impaired driving cases in particular include:
- Challenging the initial basis for the stop. Police cannot pull any driver over for any reason. They must have reasonable suspicion that a crime has been committed. That means the officer must be able to articulate a clear, common-sense reason for this suspicion; it can’t simply be a hunch or gut feeling. Even in a DUI checkpoint, officers must abide by a predetermined formula for stopping certain drivers (i.e., every fourth car). If the stop was initiated without an adequate legal basis, the case is likely to be tossed. One thing we look for when assessing the legitimacy of the stop is whether the driver was cited for any other traffic offense.
- Critique of field sobriety tests as evidence. Although blood/breath tests are compulsory for Florida drivers under implied consent laws (if they don’t want to automatically lose their driver’s license for a year), submission to field sobriety tests is not. These are tasks the officer gives to assess a person’s suspected intoxication by providing opportunity to observe one’s balance, coordination, and the ability to divide attention to more than one task. But even the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s own research indicates standardized field sobriety tests aren’t 100 percent reliable. For example, the walk-and-turn test is only 79 percent reliable according to NHTSA – and that’s probably being generous. One 2005 study published in the Journal of Forensic Science concluded field sobriety tests determined intoxication with only a 30-60 percent success rate. The reality is the “science” is sketchy because interpretations of the results are highly subjective. Police generally don’t have the medical training to fully and accurately interpret every person’s physical responses. Plus, outside environmental factors often aren’t considered. For instance, a person with Parkinson’s disease, an ear infection, or even a migraine or obesity might have balance issues that could be misconstrued as evidence of intoxication. As experienced Fort Lauderdale DUI defense lawyers, we can seek expert medical testimony to challenge the validity of field sobriety testing results.
- Examining the conditions at the time of arrest. Unrelated personal and environmental factors can play a role in an officer erroneously concluding someone is drunk or high. For instance, a person with diabetes may have symptoms such as slurred speech, confusion, or difficulty walking that can seem like intoxication, but actually is not. If you rinsed with mouthwash just before taking a breathalyzer, it might emit a false positive. Gum, cough drops, mints, topical pain medicines, and even cigarettes can sometimes do this as well because of sugar substitutes or menthol, which might possible throw off the tests. Slick roads or foggy conditions can sometimes result in erratic vehicle operation, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s due to intoxication.
- Careful look at video evidence. Video evidence is increasingly a common element in Florida DUI cases. There’s usually dashboard video or body camera footage from the officer. Sometimes that evidence is in direct conflict with what an officer reported. If for some reason that evidence was not preserved, that could be a basis for challenging the arrest as well.
Even if these approaches don’t apply to your situation, chances are there is at least one that does. If nothing else, we can advocate for reduced charges and/or sentencing based on mitigating factors (i.e., first offense, no one hurt, cooperation/remorse, etc.).
Hiring a Broward DUI defense lawyer as soon as possible after arrest will be your best shot at a favorable outcome.
Call Fort Lauderdale Criminal Defense Attorney Richard Ansara at (954) 761-4011. Serving Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.
The standardized field sobriety tests: A review of scientific and legal issues. , 2008, Rubenzer, S.J., Law and Human Behavior
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Can a Fort Lauderdale Defense Lawyer Help With My Suspended License? April 6, 2023, Fort Lauderdale DUI Lawyer Blog