As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, people are likely planning their grocery lists, possibly their Black Friday shopping lists and perhaps their travel schedule.
In fact, AAA is estimating that 42.5 million people are expected to take to the roadways this Thanksgiving holiday week in order to celebrate a meal with family members. This large number of travelers will likely congest the roads, which can lead to accidents, so West Palm Beach DUI defense lawyers wish you safe travels if you’re hitting the roads.
But we also warn that the added traffic will increase the number of Florida state troopers, sheriff’s deputies and police officers on the roads. Inevitably, there will be an increase in West Palm Beach DUI arrests this week as well.
Law enforcement will likely set up DUI checkpoints, which require a lot of manpower, but typically produce few meaningful arrests. Occasionally, they will find a person they believe has been driving drunk, but the majority of arrests they make relate to driver’s license issues and car registration or insurance problems.
Yet, departments will use their officers to set up these initiatives with less regard for the results they may get and more from the publicity they will receive and the grant money they must use or risk losing.
They will also likely be out on the road more and have an increased presence for drivers to see. This will likely applying to state troopers on Interstate 95. With the week expected to be busy for travel, especially on Wednesday, Thursday and into the weekend, troopers will likely line the median of key parts of the interstate hoping to spot people they consider to be driving while intoxicated.
But in order to start a DUI investigation, an officer must have what’s called probable cause. Probable cause is a low standard that law enforcement uses to determine if they can arrest someone. In DUI cases, it starts with the traffic stop.
The Fourth Amendment guarantees that people can’t simply be pulled over for no reason. It also applies to police breaking down your door and coming in without a search warrant. They must have a well-founded reason.
In DUI cases, this typically means they have to have witnessed a car making some kind of traffic violation, such as speeding, improper lane change, reckless driving — swerving, following too closely to another vehicle — or another traffic violation before pulling someone over.
Once a driver is pulled over, officers usually use their observations of the driver, including whether their breath smells like alcohol and if their speech is slurred or their eyes are bloodshot or watery, as a reason to continue their investigation for DUI.
Then typically come a request to take a breath test or perform field sobriety tests, such as a one-leg stand, following an object from side to side with the eyes or walking in a straight line, heel to toe. Any “failures” of the field sobriety test can lead to an arrest, but that can be challenged.
Breathalyzers have come under scrutiny for being inaccurate. In fact, prosecutors in the Sarasota area have dropped more than 100 DUI cases because the only approved breath test in Florida, the Intoxilyzer 8000, had inaccurate readings in some cases.
So, attempt to have a safe and fun holiday weekend, but keep your eyes open for police and be aware that you have rights as a driver. One of them is to seek legal representation if you are suspected of a crime. Call a West Palm Beach DUI defense lawyer if you are arrested this holiday season.
If you are arrested in West Palm Beach or elsewhere in South Florida, contact Leifert & Leifert at 954-523-9600 or 561-988-8000 for a free consultation.
More Blog Entries:
UM Student, Police Officer Charged With DUI Manslaughter on Same Coral Gables Street: October 27, 2011
West Palm Beach Man Charged With DUI With Son in Car: October 20, 2011
42.5M people expected to travel for Thanksgiving, AAA says, by Sara K. Clarke, Orlando Sentinel