It is not uncommon for a person to be arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs (also commonly referred to as DUI, DWI or drunk driving) and driving with a suspended or revoked license, or DWLS, in Florida. Under those circumstances the prosecutor will file at least two charges in the information, one for DUI and the other for DWLS. If the defendant decides to take the case to trial, those two charges should be separated, or severed. In other words, the jury that hears the evidence related to the DUI charge should not hear the evidence and decide the case related to the driving with a suspended license charge. A different jury at a new trial should decide the second charge.
The reason these charges should be severed is because the evidence pertaining the driver’s alleged suspended license, such as his driving history, is unrelated to the evidence related to the DUI, and vice versa. This relates to the idea that unduly prejudicial evidence should not be admissible in court. It is prejudicial for the state to present evidence of the defendant’s driving history and suspended license in his/her DUI trial because that evidence has nothing to do with the DUI and only paints the defendant in a bad light with irrelevant evidence. Likewise, when a jury is deciding whether the defendant was driving with a suspended license, it is prejudicial for the state to present evidence of the defendant’s intoxication because that is irrelevant to the DWLS charge.
Where a defendant has been charged with driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs and driving with a suspended or revoked license in the same case, it is important for the criminal defense lawyer to file a motion to sever those charges so the state is not permitted to admit unnecessary and prejudicial evidence against the defendant at the trial. The jury should only hear the specific evidence relevant to the particular charge.