FAQ: DUI arrest and defense

DUI arrest and defense

We are here to defend you in your DUI case. We will protect your rights and help to advise you on any possible consequences. Defending yourself against another party or against the State in Criminal court can be a treacherous undertaking, especially for those unfamiliar with the ins-and-outs of the Florida courts.

Peter M. Dennis has the insight and knowledge that comes from knowing who the prosecutors and judges are, which gives him a more realistic idea of how to manage your case. He also offers free initial consultations and 24/7 availability. Not many law firms in Fort Myers, Florida, can provide that kind of personalized and convenient assistance for their clients.

DUI, what to do?

A DUI case may first seem simple, but it can actually turn complicated and carry potentially serious consequences. You should always talk to your local DUI attorney if you have specific concerns or questions about your case.

It is important that the lawyer can begin to work on your defense right away since memories fade over time and critical witnesses can be lost. These are some of the reasons why it is important to have an attorney helping you from the beginning.

By hiring an attorney, things can turn out so much better. Considering the various implications regarding your driver’s license and possible suspension of your license, it is crucial to hire a lawyer sooner rather than later.

If I’m stopped by a police officer and he asks me if I’ve been drinking, what should I say?

You can always politely reply that you would like to speak with an attorney before answering any questions. Remember that you are not required to answer potentially incriminating questions.

Also, saying that you had one or two beers is not incriminating. Admitting that you had them may explain the odor of alcohol on your breath.

What should I do if I am asked to take field sobriety tests?

Even if you blew under the legal limit, you might still have to perform a field sobriety test (FST). In Florida, the police can request you to do a field sobriety test based on their reasonable belief that you are impaired.

There is a wide range of field sobriety tests – including heel-to-toe, finger-to-nose, alphabet recitation, modified position of attention etc. Most officers will use a set battery of three to five such tests.

You are not legally required to take any FSTs. The tests simply provide additional evidence in cases where the suspect fails, which is often the case. Most officers have already made up their minds to make an arrest when they conduct the FSTs.

Many states have begun following the federally-approved (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, NHTSA) standardized field sobriety tests. These consist of a battery of three tests:

  1. horizontal and vertical gaze nystagmus (the eye test)
  2. walk and turn on the line
  3. raise one leg and count (until they say stop)

What is the officer looking for during the initial detention at the scene?

There are many symptoms that may indicate that a motorist is driving while intoxicated. This list is based upon research conducted by the NHTSA:

  • Turning with a wide radius
  • Straddling center of lane marker
  • “Appearing to be drunk”
  • Almost striking object or vehicle
  • Weaving
  • Driving on other than designated highway
  • Swerving
  • Speed more than 10 mph below limit
  • Stopping without cause in traffic lane
  • Following too closely
  • Drifting
  • Tires on center or lane marker
  • Braking erratically
  • Driving into opposing or crossing traffic
  • Signaling inconsistent with driving actions
  • Slow response to traffic signals
  • Stopping inappropriately (other than in lane)
  • Turning abruptly or illegally
  • Accelerating or decelerating rapidly
  • Headlights off
  • Speeding is not a symptom of DUI, because of quicker judgment and reflexes, it may indicate sobriety

DUI when not driving

Even if the State can prove that you were impaired, they still typically have to prove that you were either driving, operating or in actual physical control of your vehicle at the time. While it is illegal to be driving while impaired, it may not be a crime to be sleeping in the driver’s seat if your car doesn’t move, the engine is not running, and/or the key is not in the ignition.

States differ on what kind of proof will satisfy this element of a DUI. most states use a “totality of the circumstances” approach to determine whether a driver was operating or in physical control. With this approach, the judge or jury will consider all relevant factors, such as

  • where the car was,
  • where the driver was,
  • where the car keys were,
  • whether the car’s engine was running, and
  • whether the driver was awake or asleep.

The vehicle’s location more or less shows that the person was driving before police showed up. for someone who was in the driver’s seat or close to it, the jury might lean toward finding that the driver was in control of the vehicle. The opposite is true if the person was asleep in the backseat or on the ground next to the car.

Usually, if a driver doesn’t have keys, then a judge or jury often won’t convict. On the other hand, if the keys are within the driver’s reach or already in the ignition, then a driver will probably be found to have been in physical control.

The issue of whether the engine is running, in combination with the driver’s location, is important. A person asleep in the driver’s seat, while the engine is running, is more likely in physical control than a person asleep under a blanket in the back seat while the engine is running.

The possibility of a sleeping driver waking up makes the location of where the driver is sleeping incredibly important. For example, a person sleeping it off behind the wheel can more easily start driving when awakened than someone sleeping it off in the backseat.