Florida Court Examines Grounds for Conducting a DUI Investigation

It is not uncommon for people to be charged with DUI crimes following alcohol-induced crashes. While the police are permitted to investigate collisions without warrants, it is not always clear what constitutes a crash and, therefore, grounds for conducting an investigation.  In a recent Florida opinion, a court clarified what is considered a crash for the purposes of DUI investigations in a case in which it ultimately determined the defendant’s arrest was lawful. If you are charged with a DUI crime, it is in your best interest to talk to a Tampa DUI defense lawyer to evaluate what steps you can take to protect your interests.

Factual and Procedural History

It is reported that a police officer responded to a report of a traffic crash and found the defendant’s overturned pickup truck in a ditch. The defendant, standing nearby, exhibited signs of alcohol impairment. Despite no evidence of the truck colliding with another vehicle or structure, the officer initiated a DUI investigation. The defendant’s truck, which was damaged with a broken headlight, was towed, during which it was revealed it contained numerous alcohol containers. The officer subsequently arrested the defendant for DUI. Chemical testing revealed his BAC to be over .15.

Allegedly, the defendant moved to suppress the results of his chemical testing and any evidence obtained during the investigation, arguing that his overturned truck did not constitute a crash and, therefore, his arrest was invalid. The court granted his motion, and the state appealed.

Grounds for Conducting a DUI Investigation

On appeal, the court evaluated whether the defendant’s overturned truck qualified as being “involved in the crash,” justifying a warrantless arrest for DUI. In doing so, the court noted that the trial court based its suppression order on the determination that the truck being in a ditch did not constitute a crash.

The court conducted a de novo review, emphasizing the statutory language’s plain and ordinary meaning. Relying on precedent, the court rejected the defendant’s argument that a crash necessitates damage to another’s property. Instead, the court affirmed that a crash occurs when a vehicle collides with an object, causing damage to itself.

In this case, the damaged headlight demonstrated a collision between the defendant’s truck and the ditch, meeting the definition of a crash. Consequently, the court reversed the suppression order, holding that the defendant’s arrest was lawful, and remanded the case for further proceedings.

Talk to a Dedicated Tampa Criminal Defense Attorney

DUI convictions can result in the loss of a license, fines, and, in some instances, jail time, but merely because a person has been charged with a DUI crime does not mean that they will be found guilty. If you are accused of driving under the influence, it is smart to talk to an attorney about your possible defenses. The dedicated Tampa DUI defense lawyers of Hanlon can assess the circumstances surrounding your arrest and advise you of your options for protecting your rights and reputation. You can contact Hanlon Law by using the form online or by calling us at 813-228-7095 to set up a meeting.

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