Many DUI arrests in Florida start with a routine traffic stop. An officer may observe the driver swerving in traffic, driving too fast or too slow for conditions, failing to stop at a stop sign, or otherwise driving recklessly and pull the driver over for violating a traffic regulation.
A traffic violation is not enough to arrest the driver for a DUI. To arrest the driver under suspicion of driving under the influence, the officer must have probable cause or reasonable belief based on a “totality of the circumstances” or trustworthy evidence that you were driving while impaired. Reasonable suspicion or a “feeling” is not enough to go forward with an arrest.
What evidence is needed to establish probable cause?
There is no specific evidence needed to establish probable cause to arrest a driver for a DUI. Generally, however, the officer may establish probable cause based on any of the following observations:
- Appearance: The officer sees that the driver appears disheveled or has bloodshot eyes.
- Surroundings: The officer observes empty bottles or cans of alcohol visible ‘in plain view’ inside the vehicle.
- Behaviors: The officer observes the driver slurring their words, cursing, or exhibiting other signs of intoxication.
- Smells: The officer smells alcohol on the driver’s breath or in the vehicle.
- Test results: The officer may also ask the driver to submit to Breathalyzer, chemical test, and/or field sobriety test, and use these test results to establish that the driver was intoxicated.
If you can establish a drunk driving defense stating that the officer stopped you or arrested you without probable cause, you may have a much better chance at having your charges dropped or reduced. For example, without probable cause, certain evidence, such as Breathalyzer results, may be excluded from your case. Without that evidence, prosecutors may not have enough against you to fight for a conviction.