Much has changed in the practice of Florida criminal defense during COVID. With varying orders being issued by the Florida Supreme Court, the Chief Judges of the Circuits, County and local municipalities, we are all dealing with the semi-shutdown as best we can. It seems that new orders, tweaking the last set, are made about every other week.
If a person accused of DUI refuses to submit to field sobriety exercises or to submit a breath sample a common concern is whether the refusal can be used against the DUI Defendant in Court. As to the driver's license, being deemed to have refused will cause an automatic suspension unless a review hearing is requested and won at the Department of Highway Safety & Motor Vehicles (DHSMV).
In a DUI arrest, when a breath test is not available or feasible, or if the circumstances allow, law enforcement may seek a sample of the accused driver's blood to determine a blood alcohol concentration or content (BAC). The question of whether and how the police may take the accused DUI driver's blood has been considered by the United States Supreme Court in the last few years.
In Florida, a person accused of DUI has faced mandatory adjudication, also known as conviction, for many decades. In cases where the Court is not restricted, it can also withhold adjudication which means that technically a person is not convicted. The difference can have far reaching consequences. For example, a DUI cannot be expunged because of the conviction and convictions stay on a driving history for up to seventy-five (75) years. Convictions also require higher surcharges and court costs.
An element the State has to prove in a DUI is that the accused was either driving or in "actual physical control" of the vehicle. Actual physical control sounds simple enough but the question of what is actual physical control has generated some interesting case law. Of note is that if the accused was not driving or the car was not moving, then the State can still prosecute a person having actual physical control.
In criminal and traffic cases a common concern is that the officer requested the driver or other person to exit the vehicle. There is a line of thought that being removed from the vehicle requires a safety concern or other good reason. Some may question what issue(s) exist getting out of the car, others do not like the feeling of being seized, however in the context of criminal cases, exiting from a vehicle often discloses damaging evidence.
A car accident leads to a traffic crash investigation which often time leads to criminal charges such as drunk driving or DUI. Floridians should be aware that the law requires them to cooperate with a traffic crash investigation. The intent behind the reporting requirement is to encourage true and uninhibited reporting of accidents, with the ultimate goal of making highways safer.
There are all kinds of urban myths in DUI / DWI law. In the context of a Florida DUI, a Florida appellate court has interpreted Florida law as allowing a conviction to a New York charge of driving while alcohol impaired (DWAI), section 1192 (1), to be used to enhance a Florida DUI. In addition, a conviction to a New York DWAI can be used for purposes of suspending a Florida driver's license. This strikes many as odd since the New York offense of DWAI is specifically not a DUI pursuant to New York law. Many people are surprised to learn that what one state does not consider a DUI is treated as such in Florida.
Arrests and the resulting criminal accusations happen every day. Common questions are how can they arrest when there are conflicting stories or can they arrest for whatever just happened. Unfortunately, that is the wrong question. If someone was just arrested, then the answer is yes the cops can and in fact they did just make that arrest. Now the accused has to defend themselves but the only place that happens is at a trial and that will not be for several months.
For some it is getting the letter or notice of Habitual Traffic Offender ("HTO") in the mail. For others it is getting arrested after being pulled over for no reason or even if there was a traffic citation, surprise! The license is being, or has been, suspended for five (5) years. The driver has been habitualized! After Notice from the DHSMV, we can determine the next step to attempt to reinstate the license. An analysis of the driver record may be required.