The Law Offices Of Kevin J. Pitts
A large portion of Florida DUI litigation revolves around the stop. If a Florida DUI attorney is able successfully litigate a stop motion all the evidence after the stop would be suppressed. The relevant Florida DUI stop standards are reasonable suspicion and probable cause. Reasonable suspicion is a much lower standard than probable cause. Reasonable suspicion has been defined as something more than a mere hunch. lt United States v. Arvizu, 534 U.S. 266 (2002)Probable cause exists where the totality of the facts known to the officer at the time would cause a reasonable person to believe that an offense has been committed. lt State v. Walker, 991 So.2d 928, (Fla. 2d DCA 2008)
The standard for a Florida non-criminal traffic stop is contested. The United States Supreme Court in Whren v. U.S. stated that the standard was probable cause. As a general matter, the decision to stop an automobile is reasonable where the police have probable cause to believe that a traffic violation has occurred. Whren v. United States , 517 U.S. 806 (1996). The State contends that reasonable suspicion is the standard and the language in Whren v. United States is dicta or a misstatement. The State contends that if The Supreme Court was to change the standard for a non-criminal traffic stop in Whren it would have been accompanied by an explanation. Some courts have followed this logic but it's hard to believe The United States Supreme Court would accidently misstate the law.In some circumstances an officer can stop a vehicle based on unusual driving or suspicion of impairment. The unusual driving standard was initiated when a stop was upheld for weaving within the lane and driving only 45 miles per hour on a highway. No traffic violation occurred but The Florida Supreme Court determined that the driving was sufficiently unusual to justify the stop. Bailey v. State, 319 So.2d 22 (Fla.1975).
Unusual driving and suspicion of impairment has been a heavily litigated area in Florida. In recent years the State's ability to use this standard for stops has been curtailed. An example of this is when a defendant was observed by an officer, around 3:00 a.m., weaving from one lane to another. The record does not show the crime with which the defendant was charged, but the officer stopped her because she was concerned that the driving pattern indicated the driver "could possibly be under the influence of—she could possibly be sick. You know, there were numerous other things that could be going on." The defendant moved to suppress the DUI stop on the ground that the officer had no reasonable suspicion to stop her, and the trial court granted the motion, stating that the officer did not specifically suspect DUI and noting that there was no one else on the road. Weaving, or failure to maintain a single lane, may or may not establish reasonable suspicion for a traffic stop. Weiss v. State, 965 So. 2d 842, 843 (Fla. 4th DCA 2007). See also Donaldson and Nicholas which stand for the proposition that for unusual driving or suspicion of impairment The State needs to show a driving pattern. Donaldson v. State, 803 So. 2d 856, 860 (Fla. 4th DCA 2002). Nicholas v. State, 857 So.2d 980 ( Fla. 4th DCA 2003).
For a Florida DUI stop for failure to maintain a single lane to be valid it must affect traffic. An officer observed a driver cross the right hand lane three times. No evidence was presented to show that he went far over the line or that any other driver was endangered. The court held that the stop for failure to maintain a single lane was illegal. The court stated that a violation of Florida Statute 316.089 does not occur in isolation but requires evidence that the driver created a reasonable safety concern. Crooks v. State, 710 So.2d 1041 (Fla. 2d DCA 1998). The 5th District Court of Appeals adopted the Crooks standard in Jordan. The Court stated that the statute recognizes that it is not practicable, perhaps not even possible for a motorist to maintain a single lane at all times. Jordan v. State, 831 So.2d 1241 (Fla. 5th DCA 2002).
An Experienced Florida DUI Attorney can point out other traffic infractions that require traffic to be affected for the stop to be legal. Failure to use a turn signal also requires traffic to be affected for a valid Florida DUI stop. If no other vehicle is affected by a turn from the highway, then a turn signal is not required by the statute. If a signal is not required, then a traffic stop predicated on failure to use a turn signal is illegal and any evidence obtained as a result of that stop must be suppressed. State v. Riley, 638 So.2d 507 (Fla. 1994). An obstructing traffic violation requires that traffic be affected and the obstruction be willful for the Florida DUI stop to be valid. An arresting officer did not have probable cause to believe that defendant's vehicle was obstructing traffic. The officer had to slow down when he approached defendant's vehicle, but the vehicle was only briefly stopped on roadway at time when there was minimal traffic, the officer did not have to stop or drive around defendant's vehicle, and there was no evidence that defendant intended to impede or hinder traffic. Underwood v. State, 801 So. 2d 200 (Fla. 4th DCA 2001). An officer's observation of driver “squealing his tires” as he exited hotel parking lot onto a major roadway did not give rise to probable cause to believe that driver had committed traffic violation of improper starting, as required to form basis for vehicle stop, where officer testified that he was “not sure” that vehicle had been parked at time he first heard tires squeal, there was no other evidence indicating manner in which driver started vehicle, and squealing tires alone did not constitute traffic violation. Donaldson v. State, 803 So. 2d 856 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 2002).