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DUI Defendant Stopped For Improper Honking of Horn

Most DUI’s in Florida stem from a traffic stop. The police officer then decides that the driver is impaired from alcohol or drugs and initiates a DUI investigation which usually involves questions about drinking/drugs, a field sobriety test and a breathalyzer test. However, in order for a DUI arrest to be valid, the initial stop of the defendant must be legal. In other words, if the police officer did not have a legal basis to stop the defendant, the DUI case will be thrown out no matter how impaired the defendant may have been.

In a recent DUI case near Jacksonville, Florida, the defendant was stopped in front of a crosswalk waiting for pedestrians to cross the road so she could make a turn. Apparently, the defendant honked her horn at the pedestrians several times as they crossed the crosswalk. A police officer saw her and approached her after she turned into a parking lot and parked her vehicle. The defendant told the police officer she honked the horn multiple times because the pedestrians were not moving fast enough. The police officer testified that he smelled alcohol coming from her and told her to exit her vehicle. The police officer conducted a DUI investigation and then arrested her for DUI.

The criminal defense lawyer filed a motion to suppress the evidence related to the DUI investigation based on the fact that the initial stop/detention was unlawful. The criminal defense attorney argued that the police officer did not have probable cause to believe the defendant violated any traffic laws before he asked her to exit the vehicle. However the court disagreed and allowed the DUI evidence to come in.

In Florida, a police officer can stop a person for violating a traffic law. There is a law in Florida which says that a driver may use his/her horn when reasonably necessary to ensure safe operation of the vehicle. However, the driver may not otherwise use the horn while driving. The court found that the defendant did not have a legitimate safety reason to honk her horn in this case. As a result, the court found that the stop was legitimate.

People use their horns for many reasons. Although we do not see this kind of case very often, be aware that there is a law that allows a police officer to stop you for honking your horn when it is not necessary for safety reasons. And once a police officer stops you, he/she can investigate you for any crime that he/she believes you are committing, including, of course, DUI.