Challenging a Charge of Driving Under the Influence in Florida
Exploring all of the evidence thoroughly will reveal the strongest defenses when challenging a DUI charge in Florida. Not all of the best evidence for the defense will be provided in discovery by the prosecution and police. The defense has a right to investigate to locate witnesses and rebut expert testimony. At Musca Law, our Florida DUI Defense Lawyers comb through all of the evidence thoroughly, so they understand all of the facts of the case and derive the strongest defenses possible. DUI charges are extremely complex criminal cases that frequently involve eyewitness testimony as well as expert testimony. Only a Florida DUI Defense Attorney with training and experience trying cases to judges and juries can give the accused the best legal defense against Florida DUI charges.
Elements of a DUI Charge in Florida
The state, represented by the prosecution, has the burden to prove each of the elements beyond a reasonable doubt to prove the accused guilty. Any failure of proof on one of the elements will result in a not guilty verdict at trial. Therefore, understanding what the prosecution has to prove is essential to defending a DUI case in Florida.
The elements of a DUI charge are derived from Florida Statutes §316.193. Section 316.193 establishes the elements of DUI in Florida as:
- The accused was driving a motor vehicle, or the accused had physical control over a motor vehicle; while either
- The vehicle’s driver was under the influence of alcohol or drugs to the extent that the person’s normal faculties were impaired, or
- The blood-alcohol level or breath-alcohol level of the driver was registered at 0.08 after testing.
Our Florida lawyers pour through the evidence to find the weaknesses that could be exploited and vigorously pursue all available defenses.
Physical Control Over a Vehicle
The state could prosecute a DUI charge even though there is no one found behind the wheel. Some defenses arise when actual physical control is a live issue at trial. In the majority of DUI prosecutions in Florida, the person accused of DUI will be driving. Driving is synonymous with operation, that is the accused is sitting in the driver’s seat, the keys are in the ignition or are on the person of the driver (now that many cars no longer require ignition keys to drive), and the arresting officer or another witness saw the car moving with accused at the wheel. However, Florida law allows the prosecution to use the theory of actual physical control to prove someone guilty of DUI even if the accused was not found behind the wheel.
Having actual physical control over any vehicle in Florida requires the government to prove that the person was driving through circumstantial evidence and not direct evidence. Having physical possession of the key or constructive possession of the car key, like keeping it in a jacket, pocketbook, or in the center console, is strong evidence of having actual physical control over the car, especially if the person was found in the car.
Also, the government has to prove the vehicle was operable. A stalled car, dead battery, or flatten tire does not render the vehicle inoperable. There has to be a malfunction of the car, which renders it incapable of moving on its own.
Defending against allegations of actual physical control requires testing the strength of the evidence connecting the accused to the car, such as the absence of the car key or the lack of eyewitness to put the accused in the driver’s seat because he or she was found in the rear seat.
"Under the Influence"
The state can prove the operator was under the influence by showing the accused’s normal faculties, that is, the ability to walk, talk, listen, understand, maintain balance, and exercise good judgment is diminished because of alcohol consumption. Police officer testimony, witness testimony, field sobriety test results are commonly used as evidence to prove a driver was under the influence.
The officer’s observations could be challenged with contradictory testimony from eyewitnesses or through cross-examination of the officer. Cross-examination could show that the officer has an inaccurate memory of the event, cannot accurately recall the timeline of events, providing a narrative that is different than the video recordings of the incident from dashboard cameras or body cameras, or shows that the officer exaggerated the events.
Challenging the field sobriety tests are a necessity. Officers frequently give field sobriety tests incorrectly, draw the wrong conclusions from the performance of the accused, or judge the performance of the accused too harshly.
Field sobriety tests, such as the divided attention or the one-legged stand test, were allegedly devised by medical professionals to correlate balance and attention span with the ability to drive safely. But the officer’s unscientific understanding of the test can illustrate how unreliable field sobriety tests can be, especially when someone has an injury, is overweight, or has an illness. Poking holes in the officer’s testimony show that the prosecution can not satisfy its burden of proof.
Challenging the accuracy of alcohol levels in a person’s blood or breath requires extensive experience and a thorough understanding of how the conversation of alcohol serum in the blood works as well as how the tests work. Scientific evidence is not beyond reproach.
Not only could the conclusions be attacked, but the procedure should be scrutinized as well. The evidence could be suppressed if the police did not obtain a warrant to draw blood if the suspect did not consent. Also, the evidence could be excluded from trial because the police did not follow the proper chain of custody, the machines used, such as the Intoxilyzer-8000 were malfunctioning, or the experts lack the necessary training to perform the tests and analyze the results.
Another defense to the BAL is arguing “rising BAL.” In other words, counsel could argue the BAL readings are inaccurate because the person was metabolizing the alcohol, and the BAL was rising when he or she took the test, but the person was not “over the legal limit” when the police made the arrest.
Trust Musca Law to Challenge Your DUI Case in Florida
Contact Musca Law today at 888-484-5057 to speak with our seasoned Florida DUI Defense Lawyers. You could trust our experience and resources to give you the best defense possible for your DUI case in Florida.