As our Fort Lauderdale DUI defense lawyers reported in November, law enforcement would be on patrol, looking to make as many DUI arrests as possible during the Thanksgiving holiday.
We were right — the Florida Highway Patrol recently released its statistics, which showed a large number of DUI arrests and other traffic citations, numbers which don’t include local law enforcement totals.
And as the December holiday season hits full swing, we again warn drivers not to get trapped in the net of police as they are stepping up patrols this holiday season. Being charged with DUI in Fort Lauderdale not only can introduce a person to the criminal justice system, but can put them on the hook for possible criminal penalties and out-of-court sanctions such as job loss.
That’s why all aspects of the crime — from the initial stop and whether it was lawful to the accuracy of the breath testing and field sobriety testing — must be challenged by a skilled attorney. Otherwise, a person may not get a fair trial.
According to the Florida Highway Patrol, troopers made 136 DUI arrests between November 23 and November 27 this year. That number is up from the 121 people who were arrested for the charge in 2010. Troopers statewide actually filed 470 fewer citations in the same time period, however.
That doesn’t necessarily mean that more people were driving under the influence and it certainly doesn’t mean those who were arrested are guilty. It simply means they were arrested.
Police are under enormous pressure, especially this time of year, to make arrests for drunken driving. When DUI-related fatal crashes hit the news, officials and the public sometimes call for answers. Often, the only answer of law enforcement is to run more PR campaigns that include sobriety checkpoints and enforcement blitzes.
And they respond by beefing up patrols. This can end up ensnaring people who are innocent of the charge. This sometimes happens when overzealous police officers stretch the limits of what is probable cause and arrest people who may not be guilty.
It all starts with the traffic stop. Police can’t pull you over unless you have done something wrong and that usually amounts to a traffic violation, such as speeding, running a red light or swerving. But it can also stem from having a tail light out, an improper license plate or an expired tag.
Once an officer makes the stop, he or she can use their training to see if the driver may have been drinking. What they classify as glassy eyes or blood shot eyes and slurred speech can all be used against the driver. Once they make these observations, it’s likely they will arrest the driver for DUI. A breath test, if one is consented to, and field sobriety tests, may be formalities at that point.
So, fighting the charge is the only option. An arrest may be an embarrassing mark, especially during the holidays, but it can be erased with an acquittal, if charges are dropped or a successful plea to a less-serious charge. Simply allowing the state to bowl you over with these charges is never an option.