A recent DUI case near Jacksonville, Florida had a couple of interesting issues. Essentially, a police officer was in his patrol car but out of his jurisdiction. He came across a person riding his motorcycle who had just crashed. She went over to assist and ultimately determined that he had been driving while under the influence of alcohol (DUI). The police officer kept the suspect at the scene until proper backup from the that jurisdiction could arrive. Once a police officer in that jurisdiction arrived, he took over the DUI investigation and arrested the defendant for DUI. By the time the second police officer arrived, the defendant was no longer driving or on his motorcycle.
The first issue is that a police officer cannot generally make arrests outside of his jurisdiction. This first officer was in a different county. It was nice that he went over to try and assist the defendant, but he was not legally authorized to make an arrest of the defendant for DUI. There are exceptions to this rule, for instance, where a police officer is chasing a suspect who goes into another county, or police officers have agreements in place with agencies in other counties or emergency situations where felonies occurred. However, none of those applied here.
There is something in Florida law called a citizen’s arrest. Citizens can arrest other people for felonies and breach of peace. A police officer outside of his jurisdiction has the same right to effect a citizen’s arrest as a normal citizen does. A DUI that does not involve a serious injury or death is not a felony, so if this was to be a valid citizen’s arrest, it would have to be considered a breach of peace. A breach of peace is a generic legal term. It is like obscenity- you know it when you see it, but it generally is going to require an element of disturbing the peace. The court determined this was not a breach of peace situation as the defendant was not causing any disturbance to others when the police officer found him. Certainly, erratic driving that endangers others could be a breach of peace, but this officer did not observe that. Because there was no right to make a citizen’s arrest and this officer was not in his jurisdiction, the officer had no right to try and keep the defendant at the scene to wait for the second officer.