In Florida, DUI arrests are most commonly made by police when they observe someone driving erratically or violating a traffic law, initiate a traffic stop and observe signs that the driver is impaired from alcohol or drugs. However, many DUI arrests result from situations where the police officer never sees the person driving at all. A person commits a DUI when he/she operates a motor vehicle while his/her normal faculties are impaired from alcohol or drugs. A DUI can also be committed when a person is in actual physical control of a vehicle while impaired. Actual physical control can mean many things, but it generally means that the person has the ability to operate the vehicle, even if he/she is not doing so when encountered by the police officer. A defense to being in actual, physical control of the vehicle, and the DUI charge itself, is that the vehicle was not capable of being operated. As an obvious example, if the police officer approached a person drunk in the front seat of a vehicle but the engine had been removed and was being worked on in the garage, the vehicle would not be operable and a DUI charge would not be appropriate.
Cases that are less clear involve the police coming upon a person who is having some sort of car trouble on the road. In a DUI case near Jacksonville, Florida, the police officer approached the defendant’s vehicle that was stopped on the street due to a flat tire. The officer ultimately arrested the defendant for DUI. The defendant’s criminal defense lawyer defended the case by arguing that the vehicle was inoperable due to the flat tire. The defendant lost the DUI case because he apparently admitted to the police officer that he was driving the vehicle up to the point of the flat tire and after he was drinking at the bar.
This was a situation where the defendant talked himself into a DUI conviction. Because the defendant’s statements indicated that the vehicle was operable just prior to the blown tire, the conviction for DUI was upheld.