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What Happens During a DUI Investigation in Florida?

— November 4, 2022

Physical exercises that divide the person’s attention are a way for the officer to see the person’s level of impairment.

Fort Lauderdale, FL – When a police officer asks a driver to step out of their vehicle during a traffic stop, this can be a stressful and nerve racking experience. If a person is being investigated for driving under the influence, this is a criminal charge in Florida and it carries serious penalties. However, a basic understanding of this process can help the person handle the situation and understand how to act in their own best interests. 

Observations during the traffic stop

Police are trained to look for certain indicators of impairment during a DUI stop. In Florida, this normally includes bloodshot eyes, slurred or incoherent speech, an odor of alcohol, or erratic movements. Usually a combination of these factors will cause the officer to ask the person to step out of the vehicle. 

Field Sobriety Exercises

Physical exercises that divide the person’s attention are a way for the officer to see the person’s level of impairment. These usually include the horizontal gaze nystagmus test with a pen or stylus to check for eye movement, a walk and turn test to check the person’s balance and coordination, and a finger to nose test to see how they follow instructions. Some tests are not easy to perform, and they require a certain degree of athleticism, even for sober suspects. This is especially true if the tests are done on an uneven road surface or at night.

Police in Connecticut administer the one leg stand test to a driver after a crash. Photo by Versageek, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. CC BY-SA 3.0

The arrest

In many cases, the officer will arrest the person even if they performed relatively well on the field sobriety exercises. The suspect will be handcuffed, placed in a police vehicle, and transported from the scene. Their vehicle will be towed, searched, and impounded as well. 

Chemical testing

All drivers in Florida are required to submit to a chemical test of urine for the presence of drugs or a breath test for alcohol consumption by obtaining a Florida driver’s license. This is called the implied consent law. It is possible to refuse the test, but this results in an automatic license suspension and penalties similar to being convicted of a DUI. However, a refusal may be in the interests of some individuals, as this is essentially a way for the state to gather evidence with no positive outcome for complying. 

Unfortunately, because an arrest is made before the chemical test, even if the suspect’s tests show that they were not impaired, the police will not let the person go. This point needs to be disputed later in court.   

Fort Lauderdale DUI attorneys 

There are lawyers who focus their practice on issues related to driving under the influence and defending clients. Gabriela C. Novo, P.A. is a licensed attorney who has extensive experience in DUI law in Florida.

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