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Know your rights when police step up DUI enforcement

Florida readers may be aware that police departments across the state of the Florida ramped up monitoring last month up until Labor Day. The campaign, called “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over,” was like the many others just like it—increased officer presence on roadways and increased lookout for erratic driving and other behaviors suggestive of drunk driving.

Although these enforcement efforts are overall positive in terms of public safety, it is important for motorists to realize that there is an increased chance that they may be pulled over on suspicion of drunk driving, regardless of whether they are driving while intoxicated or not. When one is pulled over on suspicion of drunk driving, they need to understand their rights so that they don’t say and do things that could harm them legally. 

First of all, police cannot randomly target motorists to pull the over to check them for drunk driving. Police must at least have a reasonable suspicion that the motorist is driving under the influence of alcohol in order to pull their vehicle over. The suspicion can be built upon just about anything—really any infraction or irregular behavior will do, but there must be something. Police, to be sure, are on the lookout for such things during times of stepped-up enforcement. If an officer is unable to articulate to you why he pulled you over, something has gone awry.

In order to make an arrest, an officer must have probable cause to believe that the driver operated the vehicle under the influence of alcohol. Probable cause, like reasonable suspicion, can be built upon various factors, including the driver’s appearance, his or her performance in sobriety testing, a preliminary breath test, admissions, and so on. This area can get tricky, though, since officers do not enjoy infallibility of judgment when it comes to investigating drunk driving.

Even in cases where the evidence does amount to probable cause for arrest, the possibility of inaccurate testing must be kept in mind. Whether the arrest is based on sobriety testing, breathalyzer readings or a combination of factors, a good defense attorney will help determine whether such testing was accurately performed and interpreted.

Source: News4jax.com, “Police increasing DUI patrols across Florida,” Kent Justice, August 22, 2014. 

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