Florida Court Rules that the Identity of the Defendant is not Necessary to Establish the Commission of a DUI

It is axiomatic that the State cannot convict a person of a DUI based on suspicion alone. In other words, if the State lacks concrete evidence that a DUI  has been committed, a defendant cannot be found guilty of DUI.

Recently, a Florida appellate court analyzed whether the identity of a DUI defendant is necessary to establish that a DUI has been committed. If you are a Tampa resident and are charged with a DUI or another crime, it is essential to retain a capable Tampa criminal defense attorney to assist you in protecting your rights.

Alleged Facts Regarding the Defendant’s DUI

Allegedly, a police officer observed a black SUV swerving through traffic at a speed that was twenty miles an hour over the posted speed limit. The officer observed the driver of the vehicle when it traveled past him, and noted that she was wearing a pink shirt and had long hair. The officer activated his emergency lights and sirens, and the driver increased her speed. The officer watched the vehicle run a red light and strike a valve box on the side of the road, after which he ended his pursuit.

It is reported that the officer recorded the driver’s license plate number, which he called in to obtain the associated address. He then traveled to the address where he observed the defendant exiting the vehicle via the driver’s side. The officer noted that the hood of the vehicle was hot, and there was damage on the passenger side. The officer approached the defendant, who had signs of intoxication and admitted to drinking vodka earlier in the day. The defendant was arrested and charged with aggravated fleeing, DUI with property damage, DUI, and leaving the scene of a crash. The defendant filed a motion to suppress her confession due to lack of corpus delecti. At a hearing on the issue, the arresting officer failed to identify the defendant in court. The trial court subsequently granted the defendant’s motion to suppress, after which the State appealed.

Motion to Suppress Due to Lack of Corpus Delecti

On appeal, the court stated that in reviewing a ruling on a motion to suppress an incriminating statement, it is presumed that the trial court’s findings as to the facts are accurate, but questions of law and fact that determine constitutional issues are independently reviewed. In the context of a DUI conviction, the court stated that corpus delecti is defined as the fact that someone is criminally responsible for a crime that has actually been committed. The court further explained that the identity of the defendant as the guilty party is not necessary for the admission of a confession. In other words, the court explained that while evidence of a crime is necessary before a confession can be admitted, the State is not required to identify the defendant to establish corpus delecti. Based on the foregoing, the court reversed the order granting the defendant’s motion to suppress.

Schedule a Meeting with a Knowledgeable Tampa Criminal Defense Attorney

The law affords criminal defendants certain rights, including the right against the State’s introduction of improper evidence. If you live in Tampa and are charged with DUI, it is important to retain a criminal defense attorney skilled in defending individuals facing DUI charges to advocate on your behalf. Attorney William Hanlon of Hanlon Law is a Tampa criminal defense attorney with the knowledge and experience needed to help you seek a favorable outcome under the facts of your case. Mr. Hanlon can be contacted at 813-228-7095 or through the online form to set up a consultation.

More Blog Posts:      

Florida Court Reverses Sentence Based on Improper Scoring of Prior Crimes, December 26, 2018, Tampa Criminal Lawyer Blog

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