Defending a DUI Case in Florida: From the Initial Arrest to a Jury Trial

Defending a DUI Case in Florida: From the Initial Arrest to a Jury Trial

The defense of a DUI case begins long before the trial. In fact, the defense of a DUI case should begin immediately after arrest because of the limited amount of time within which to work before speedy trial time periods expire. For most DUI cases, the speedy trial time period is 90 days from arrest, but for a felony DUI case, the State has 180 days to bring the case to trial.

Refusal of the Breath Test and Field Sobriety Exercises

Ideally, the defense of a Driving under the Influence will have begun before the arrest, commencing at the very moment of the initial traffic stop. Clients of Miami DUI Defense Attorney Jonathan H. Parker are well advised to respectfully refuse both the Field Sobriety Exercises and the Breath Test. This is so because most people are unaware that the phrase “operation of a motor vehicle constitutes consent to any sobriety test required by law,” appearing on all Florida driver licenses does not apply to Field Sobriety Exercises – it is neither a test nor an objective measurement of sobriety.

Furthermore, the driver license warning does not apply to breath or urine tests unlawfully obtained. How can a person untrained in the law possibly know whether the request for a breath or urine test is legal? Should that person then err on the side of the State, or on the side of protecting his or her constitutional rights to be free from unreasonable search and seizure? In DUI cases involving serious bodily injury or death, however, law enforcement has the authority to draw blood by reasonable force with or without your consent, implied or not.

Demanding Discovery and Reviewing the State’s Evidence

Meanwhile, in the trial court proceedings, the State will have 15 days to respond to a Demand for Discovery and produce all the evidence it intends to use at trial. The State must also produce evidence in its possession that it does not intend to use a trial, even evidence that tends to show that the defendant is innocent of the charge. This is called exculpatory evidence. Failure to produce exculpatory evidence, with or without demand, may be grounds for an outright dismissal of the DUI charge based on prosecutorial misconduct. 911 calls, video and/or audio tapes of the traffic stop and DUI investigation must also be disclosed, and a copy of each will be produced to the defense upon request.

Defense Motions and Limiting the State’s Evidence

Once all discoveries have been reviewed, the filing of aggressive motions such as a Motion to Suppress or a Motion to Dismiss may be warranted. In every DUI case, however, Motions in Limine will need to be filed as the case is prepared for trial. Motions in Limine are motions to the court requesting the limitation of the State’s ability to admit prejudicial, irrelevant, or unreliable evidence at trial. Such evidence may need to be redacted from a video or audio recording, or testimony from law enforcement may need to be excluded regarding certain unreliable matters such as the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test.

The Importance of an Effective Jury Selection

Finally, should the ultimate in the exercise of constitutional rights be made, a jury trial, the defense of a DUI case will seem like it is just beginning? Many trial attorneys are of the opinion that cases are won and lost during jury selection. During jury selection, the jury panel must not only be educated about the issues of the case, but their opinions and biases about the judicial system, law enforcement, defense attorneys, and DUI cases in general must be explored.

If a potential juror cannot agree to presume a defendant innocent, meaning that juror must believe in his or her heart that the defendant IS innocent until evidence beyond a reasonable doubt is produced at trial, he or she will be stricken from the jury panel for cause. The same fate awaits a potential juror who cannot accept a defendant’s constitutional right to remain silent – some jurors simply need or want to hear the defendant’s side of the story.

A skilled advocate closes jury selection only after establishing a level of trust and credibility with the jury that can be called upon later at any time during the trial, whether during the opening statement, cross examination of witnesses, or persuading the jury to return a not guilty verdict at closing arguments.

The Jury Trial: Roles of the State, Jury, and Criminal Defense Attorney

At trial the State will have the entire burden of proving DUI beyond any and all reasonable doubt. The Constitution requires the State to prove its accusations against the defendant. It is not necessary for the defendant to disprove anything. Nor is the defendant required to prove his or her innocence. It is up to the State to prove the defendant’s guilt by evidence. Consequently, a DUI can be successfully defended if the State cannot meet its burden of proof.

A criminal defense attorney exceptionally skilled in the art of communication will have the best chance of successfully conveying a credible defense to the jury because the jury will be more likely to accept his arguments at trial, and less likely to waiver from reasonable doubt. The result is keeping the presumption of innocence intact in the minds of the jury so that a not guilty verdict can be returned with confidence. So, in deciding whether the State has met its burden of proving the DUI case beyond every reasonable doubt, the experienced DUI Defense Attorney will have the jury meticulously weigh all of the following factors when reviewing the evidence during deliberations:

  1. Inconsistencies in the evidence
  2. Lack of evidence
  3. The nature of the evidence itself as a basis for reasonable doubt
  4. The fairness of administering field sobriety exercises without affording an opportunity to practice (law enforcement administering the test has likely practiced the exercises in excess of a thousand times)
  5. Whether the driving pattern was indicative of an impaired driver or merely consistent with a civil driving infraction
  6. The timing and reliability of breath or blood tests
  7. Appeals to common sense when reviewing the evidence
  8. Whether the witness seemed to have an opportunity to see and know the things about which the witness testified
  9. Whether the witness seemed to have an accurate memory
  10. Whether the witness was honest and straightforward in answering questions
  11. Whether the witness had an interest in how the case should be decided
  12. Whether the witness’s testimony agreed with the other testimony and other evidence in the case
  13. Whether the witness had been offered or received any money, preferred treatment, or other benefit in order to get the witness to testify
  14. Whether any pressure or threat been used against the witness that affected the truth of the witness’s testimony
  15. Whether the witness at some other time made a statement that is inconsistent with the testimony he or she gave in court
  16. Considering how the witnesses acted, as well as what they said.

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