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Drugs Found in Vehicle After DUI Arrest may Be Admissible at DUI Trial in Florida

In a recent DUI case near Jacksonville, Florida, the defendant was pulled over by police for failing to maintain a single lane. The police officer conducted a DUI investigation and decided the defendant was impaired while driving his vehicle. The police officer observed vomit on the defendant and in his vehicle, glassy and bloodshot eyes and slurred speech. The police officer then searched the defendant’s car and found a pill bottle containing Hydrocodone pills (Lorcet). The defendant had a prescription for the Hydrocodone pills. He denied drinking but admitted taking the prescription drugs three days prior to driving.

The criminal defense lawyer for the defendant tried to keep the evidence of the Hydrocodone away from the jury. The criminal defense attorney argued that evidence of the prescription drugs was prejudicial and not necessary for the state to prove its DUI case. The court ultimately disagreed and found that the evidence of the Hydrocodone pills was admissible.

In a DUI case in Florida where there is evidence of drug use, even if it’s a prescription drug, that evidence may be admissible in certain circumstances. For instance, the relevant factors under Florida law are: 1) there is significant evidence the defendant was impaired while driving, 2) there is evidence that the defendant recently used the drug, 3) there is not enough evidence that the defendant used some substance other than the drug which would explain his/her impairment, such as alcohol, and 4) the evidence does not show that the drug did not cause the impairment.

The idea here is that when a person is charged with DUI based on impairment from alcohol, the state has the burden of proof and needs to prove that the defendant was intoxicated by alcohol to the extent that his/her normal faculties were impaired. Evidence of prescription drugs or other illegal drugs is not necessarily relevant to the issue of whether the defendant was impaired by alcohol. However, as some people may not be aware, it is also illegal to drive while impaired by drugs, even prescription drugs. So, if a person is impaired by prescription drugs, he/she may be arrested for and convicted of DUI. In that case, where there is evidence that the defendant was impaired by illegal drugs or prescription drugs, and not alcohol, the state has a right to prove the DUI via impairment from those drugs and those drugs may be admissible into evidence.