Law enforcement conclusions in DUI cases may be disputable

DUI cases in Florida may rely on documented and testimonial evidence from law enforcement, but that evidence can be questionable.

Florida courts take into account a variety of considerations when deciding the verdict of a DUI case. Most of these considerations will be based on the foundation of evidence successively assembled by the officer who determined that the person was driving under the influence. After pulling over the suspect, the officer will have examined the driver's physical appearance and observed his or her responses to questions. This stage in the process then led to a search of the vehicle for evidence of alcohol or drug consumption. Field sobriety tests and chemical tests followed, leading to an arrest for drunken driving.

Inspection process

The first stage of the evidence assembly process for the officer is the inspection of the driver. In general, the officer is looking for indications that the driver may be driving under the influence. For example, if the driver slurs his or her words in response to questions, this could be seen as an effect of recent alcohol consumption. Additionally, particularly hostile responses, including those featuring profanity, may be taken as signals of intoxication.

The inspection may also include observing the driver's ability to simply retrieve requested documentation, such as a driver's license from a wallet and vehicle registration from the glove box. Finally, if the officer asks the driver if he or she consumed any alcohol prior to driving, any affirmative answer may prompt further evaluation.

If indications of intoxication arise from the initial inspection of the driver, the officer may choose to perform field sobriety tests. These tests may feature the horizontal gaze nystagmus, the walk and turn and the one-leg stand. Sober individuals are expected to perform these tests without any unusual reactions or problems. For example, the officer may assume that an inability to walk in a straight line or stand on one leg is an indication of possible intoxication.

Possibility of human error

The nature of the officer's evaluation techniques gives rise to the possibility for incorrectly drawn conclusions about the intoxication of the driver. For example, slurred speech may be a natural consequence of the driver's health condition. Incompetently retrieving a driver's license and vehicle registration may merely represent symptoms of anxiety during a stressful situation. Even the degree to which the driver's eyes appear to be bloodshot might have nothing to do with DUI. Finally, conclusions from the driver's performance on any field sobriety tests administered are subject to the officer's immediate interpretations of quick movements.

Importance of legal defense

The combination of subjectivity and alternative explanations may enable the driver to challenge the officer's conclusions in court. The many examples of possibly misguided conclusions imply that a DUI charge may not necessarily translate into a DUI conviction. For this reason, individuals charged with a DUI may wish to consult with a criminal defense lawyer.

Keywords: DUI, drunk driving, arrest, charges