As criminal defense attorneys in the Jacksonville, Florida area, we see a lot of different DUI cases. One issue that arises from time to time is a situation where the police arrest a person alleging that he/she is driving under the influence of alcohol but there is also evidence of a drug on the person or in the vehicle. For instance, in a recent case, a suspect was stopped for DUI based on alleged alcohol impairment. When the suspect was arrested, the police found a marijuana pipe and other marijuana paraphernalia in the vehicle as well. At the DUI trial, the criminal defense lawyer tried to exclude the evidence of the marijuana paraphernalia arguing that it was irrelevant and prejudicial in a case that was about alleged alcohol impairment.
In other cases, we have seen where the suspect has the actual drug, whether it be marijuana, cocaine, Oxycontin or something else, on his person. While possession of one of those drugs would result in an additional charge, we would argue that that drug charge should be handled separately from the DUI case because evidence of the drugs would be prejudicial and irrelevant to whether the suspect was impaired by alcohol at the time of the DUI arrest.
In Florida DUI cases, the law appears to allow evidence of the drugs or drug paraphernalia in certain circumstances: 1) there is significant evidence that the suspect was impaired, 2) the suspect has evidence indicating he/she recently used the drug(s), 3) there is a lack of evidence indicating the suspect is impaired from any other source and 4) the evidence does not indicate the suspect was not impaired from the drug for which the evidence exists.
The idea here is that if the state is charging a person with DUI from alcohol, evidence of marijuana or some other drug is irrelevant and should not be heard by a jury. On the other hand, if there is evidence that the suspect is impaired and there is evidence of a drug present, the prosecutor can present that evidence to a jury to establish the suspect’s impairment if there is no evidence the suspect was impaired from something else.