In Florida, most DUI arrests arise out of traffic stops. The police generally must have reasonable suspicion that a motorist is committing a crime or violating a traffic law in order to lawfully stop them, however, and if they do not, any evidence obtained during the stop arguably should be deemed inadmissible. In a recent Florida DUI case, the court discussed the grounds for granting and sustaining a motion to suppress evidence gathered during a traffic stop. If you are charged with a DUI offense, it is advisable to talk to a Tampa DUI defense attorney about what defenses you may be able to assert.
Facts of the Case and Procedural Setting
It is alleged that an officer, equipped with over 17 years of experience as a DUI enforcement officer, observed the defendant’s vehicle driving 83 miles per hour in a zone with a speed limit of 35 miles per hour. The officer initiated a traffic stop after the defendant abruptly came to a halt in a turn lane rather than gradually slowing down. Upon approaching the vehicle, the officer detected a strong odor of alcohol emanating from it and noticed a half-filled cup of liquid on the floorboard behind the passenger seat. The officer also observed that the defendant had bloodshot and watery eyes and slurred speech.
Reportedly, the defendant was arrested and charged with DUI and other offenses. She moved to suppress all evidence gathered after the initiation of the DUI investigation, contending that the officer lacked reasonable suspicion to conduct the investigation. Although the trial court found the officer’s testimony credible and acknowledged the validity of the initial traffic stop, it held that the officer lacked reasonable suspicion to conduct a DUI investigation based solely on the observed circumstances, including speeding. As such, it granted the motion. The State appealed.
Grounds for Suppressing Evidence in Criminal Trials
On appeal, the court underscored the importance of reasonable suspicion as a foundational criterion for initiating a DUI investigation. It noted that in prior Florida cases, similar observations—speeding, the smell of alcohol, bloodshot eyes, and behavioral cues—had been deemed sufficient to establish reasonable suspicion for a DUI investigation.
Upon review, the court ultimately found that the officer’s observations closely aligned with those prior cases. Specifically, the combination of speeding, the odor of alcohol, the presence of a half-filled cup of liquid, the defendant’s appearance, and her admission to alcohol consumption constituted a factual basis that met the threshold of reasonable suspicion. The court emphasized that reasonable suspicion was not confined to any single factor but rather emerged from the totality of circumstances. As such, the court disagreed with the trial court’s ruling and reversed the decision to grant the motion to suppress.
Confer with a Skilled Tampa Criminal Defense Attorney
Convictions for DUI offenses not only carry criminal penalties but often result in civil penalties as well. If you are charged with a DUI crime, it is smart to confer with a DUI defense attorney as soon as possible. The skilled Tampa criminal defense lawyers of Hanlon Law can assess the circumstances surrounding your arrest and gather the evidence needed to provide you with a strong chance of a good outcome. You can reach Hanlon Law by using the form online or by calling us at 813-228-7095 to set up a consultation.